Plunkett Policy Perspectives – July 2015

During the past weeks, Plunkett has published our longstanding annual report on the state of the community-owned shop sector to coincide with Community Co-operatives Fortnight.  We have also published our second report on developments in the co-operative pub sector. Thank you to all the people who completed the surveys and took the time to respond.

The reason we write these reports is to help new community groups, plus existing enterprises, to understand how the sectors overall are evolving.

Some headlines:

  • The community shop sector is outperforming major retailers, both in terms of store openings and like for like sales.
  • 95% of community shops, and 100% of co-operative pubs to open are still open.  A significantly better survival rate then the bosses of the major supermarket chains over the past year!
  • Both community shops and co-operative pubs for the first time have identified the number of vulnerable people they know their enterprise supports.  The total is 18,800, or the full Wimbledon Centre Court plus Murray Mound combined.  This is likely to be a considerable under-estimation too.
  • Both forms are now raising significant capital from their local community, with co-operative pubs raising around £6m in community shares alone.

Across the two reports, we have a number of recommendations. Here are a few:

  • Shop and pub closures are going to continue to happen, and we and others need to work harder to help a greater proportion of these communities to save these community assets.  This is going to need support organisations to work in different ways with funders, local government and national governments.
  • The Community Right to Bid in England has provided to be a powerful tool for some communities, but needs to be stronger, and have less loopholes to make a bigger difference to more communities.  The Community Right to Bid is being reviewed this summer and should be stronger, and the Welsh Government is consulting on whether to introduce a similar power. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill is in the final stages, and could assist some groups too.
  • The planning system offers pubs limited protection in England and Wales, unless English pubs are listed as Assets of Community Value.  We call the planning system to ensure that a proper process of community engagement is gone through before such assets are granted change of use, when this is required.
  • The majority of community shops and co-operative pubs benefit from some form of business rates relief.  We call on these reliefs to remain, and for national government to ensure local government retain extensive rates relief for community led businesses, and introduce discounts for businesses run from assets listed as Assets of Community Value.
  • The role of such enterprises in supporting vulnerable people in their communities have largely gone unnoticed.  Both enterprises, and organisations like Plunkett need to do more to help explain these wide ranging social impacts and the improvements they make to people’s lives.

Read A Better Form of Business – Co-operative Pubs

Read A Better Form of Business – Community Shops

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