The role of asset transfer in developing the community business market

  • 29th Jul 2022

Community businesses and local government share a common interest: the development of self-sufficient, community-led public services which empower communities, generate social value and increase community resilience over the long term. When successful, community businesses using public assets can help local authorities to achieve their public service goals, because they are place-based, responsive to service users, and financially self-sustaining.
In 2007, the Quirk Review argued that handing more assets to local people could help achieve this, by creating a surge in social action and innovation, allowing councils to step back and facilitate communities to address their own challenges. Asset-based approaches have become increasingly popular to improve resilience and manage demand on public services. They are characterised by strategies which begin by looking at the resources available, building ‘up’ from the strengths of an individual or community to improve levels of self-sufficiency. However, today, these longer-term ambitions may take a backseat as cuts to local authority budgets have placed new pressures on asset management. Rather than finding ways to progress towards networked, self-reliant places, asset management departments are expected to fill holes in revenue spending budgets simply to meet immediate demands. Understanding the extent of this conflict – between asset management strategies which yield revenues immediately, and those that generate social value over time by strengthening the capacity of communities to look after themselves – is imperative given the ability of community businesses to respond to several key drivers of public service transformation.

About the authors:

Power to Change commissioned New Local Government Network in March 2016 to provide the most comprehensive possible mapping of asset transfers from local authorities to communities in recent years.

Power to Change
The Clarence Centre
6 St George’s Circus

New Local Government Network (NLGN) is an independent think tank that seeks to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower communities. Working alongside a network of leading-edge councils, it identifies ways to drive innovation and inspire tomorrow’s places with work that is creative, collaborative and thought-provoking, but never strays too far into impractical blue skies thinking.