Now the election is over, we can get down to business. The Conservative Party Manifesto has the following commitments specifically relevant to Plunkett’s work, most of them centred around pubs. A number of these centre around their commitment to strengthen the Community Right to Bid in England.
There is a commitment to extend the length of the protected period that communities have under the Community Right to Bid. Currently this is 6 months. Plunkett would like to see this extended to a minimum of 10 months, the average time it takes for a community pub buyout.
They have also committed to requiring asset owners to set a clear ‘reserve’ price for the community to aim for when bidding. This has been a regular problem for community groups, and has been a particular problem with community pub buyouts due to lack of planning protection meaning that owners have placed high development values on pub buildings.
They have also committed to set up a Pubs Loan Fund, to enable groups to obtain small loans to pay for some of the initial costs like legal fees and feasibility costs. We’d like to see this being a small grant programme, operated on a similar basis to a bursary scheme we have run with the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. This scheme has enabled groups to pay for some very early costs that can prevent many communities from progressing. Groups we have worked with have paid for valuations, community consultation costs, legal costs, campaign website development, legal registration and much more.
We’d also like to see more done to ensure the Community Right to Bid helps more groups looking to save their local shop. Far fewer village shops have been registered as Assets of Community Value, and the Community Right to Bid isn’t useful currently for the 60% of community shops that are not based in a previous shop.
In connected news, the Welsh Government has launched a consultation on protecting community assets, seeking views for how and if to implement an equivalent Community Right to Bid.
These commitments will be the responsibility of Marcus Jones MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government after it was decided to unite the responsibilities for Community Rights and community pubs under one Minister for the first time, something we welcome.
We also welcomed the news that Rory Stewart MP has been appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs at Defra. Rory Stewart has been a strong supporter of community action in rural areas and has co-operative pubs, a Community Land Trust and community broadband operators in his rural constituency.
Don’t miss Plunkett’s annual event!
If you haven’t already booked, we’d love to see you at our National Community Co-operative Networking Event and AGM, which is taking place on 25 June at Dunchurch in Warwickshire. More info here.