Here is some of what we have been up to on policy at Plunkett over the last month.
Important steps forward for community investment
Three significant steps forward have been taken for community investment in the past month.
Firstly, we’re delighted to say that Plunkett Scotland will be working alongside friends at Development Trusts Association Scotland and the Community Shares Unit on Community Shares Scotland, a new service just announced to support the development of community shares in Scotland. This services is being fund by the Big Lottery Fund Scotland and the Carnegie UK Trust.
Secondly, on 6th April, the withdrawable share capital limit for co-operatives was increased from £20,000 per individual to £100,000. This is the first time for a long time that this limit has been reviewed. We’re going to be producing some guidance on this as while it is good news for community shares and other co-operatives in need of capital, this will need to be balanced with ensuring genuine community-ownership and democratic control.
On the same day the new Social Investment Tax Relief came into force providing 30% tax relief on investments in Community Benefit Societies, Community Interest Companies and Charities. The Community Shares Unit and HMRC are producing some guidance on this. As with all schemes incentivising investment, there are some excluded trades. For example, with Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief there is a block exclusion on agricultural production and some co-operative pubs run by tenants are excluded too. SITR has less exclusions but these two still apply but we’re working with the Government and others to see if this can be looked at again.
Continued spotlight on co-operatives
The Co-operative Group has remained in the spotlight during the month. Different people within the movement are reacting in different ways. Ed Mayo, as always, has been a constant source of wise, calm words throughout. Read his blog here [http://edmayo.wordpress.com/]. A degree of conflict is healthy for any co-operative and there is their fair share of this happening. The big discussions are focusing around reforming governance and improving their competitiveness and the impact this could have on the ethical stance of the co-op. As Ed said on Radio 4’s Today Programme, it isn’t a choice between ethics or competitiveness; they make great long term partners.
Raise a glass to Community Pubs Month
April is the Campaign for Real Ale’s Community Pubs Month. It’s great to begin the month with both a record number of co-operative pubs open and trading as well as a number of new co-operative pubs expected to open within the month. Community Pubs Month is a great opportunity to recognise the role that pubs play in communities, particularly from a Plunkett perspective those that are owned and run by communities. It’s also a great excuse to push for greater recognition and support.
Here is our short wish list to help communities set up and run co-operative pubs:
- Strengthen Asset of Community Value power in England. We back CAMRA’s call for pubs that are registered to trigger the removal of permitted development rights that allow pubs to convert to shops, offices and restaurants. We’d also like ACV nominations to supersede other provisions, like Unilateral Notices which if exist, can render an ACV nomination powerless.
- We’d like to see Local Authorities review their attitude to risk when considering using the powers at their disposal to help communities protect pubs. For example, using Article 4 directions to remote permitted development rights, using the powers available through Sustainable Communities Act or in some situations Compulsory Purchase Orders. Communities ready, willing and able to take over their local are being prevented from doing so at times due to Local Authority concerns about compensation claims.
- 350 pubs are now registered as Assets of Community Value, far more than any other type of asset. We’d like to see far greater promotion and awareness of the ability to register pubs and other assets at an earlier stage, rather than being used as a way of reacting to the threat of a pub closing or being sold.
- Reviewing the length of the ‘protected period’. 6 months isn’t enough for many communities and extending this or the ability to trigger an extension would help more communities to be able to take over their local.
- Separate asset class for pubs, ensuring that if plans exist to convert to anything else, the owner needs to apply for planning permission.
Plunkett joins the Localism Alliance
Plunkett has joined forces with a small number of organisations like Supporters Direct, CAMRA, NALC, Civic Voice and the Theatres Trust to promote how communities can save what is important to them through the new community rights in England. Find out more here.
I hope you have a good month ahead.