Powers allowing community groups to take on local assets should be kick-started to build on the volunteer spirit generated by COVID says a think-tank report released today.
In its report Local delivery – protecting social infrastructure Localis calls for greater Government funding to community asset bids as well as extending the current six month moratorium on an asset sale to 12 months.
It also wants councils to include investment in community groups when awarding public contracts as well as providing them with low-cost loans. The report says that devolution from councils to community groups is ‘overly complex’ and councils are often under pressure to sell assets on the commercial market. Spending cuts have also increased the transfer of assets like libraries or open spaces to local volunteers.
Many of the powers to take on assets, some of them council-owned, were laid out in the Localism Act 2011 which the report says was ‘pioneering’ and ‘the catalyst for devolution of powers from central government to communities’ but ‘there is much to be improved upon.’
The report adds: ‘The manifestos of the 2020 election revealed a broad, cross-party commitment to the concept of local communities taking control of delivering social infrastructure. This must not be forgotten in the process of post-Covid recovery.’
Report author, Grace Newcombe said: ‘Over lockdown, we have realised the real significance of our local services and open spaces. Community groups need support to remain autonomous and make their voices heard in the planning and delivery of services for community wellbeing, having best captured true community spirit during the pandemic.’