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CLG cuts community-owned pubs programme
Communities hoping to take over disused pubs have been dealt a ‘devastating’ blow by the government after news that a £3.3m programme of support has been scrapped.
The money for the Community-Owned Pubs Programme had been earmarked by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) department in March – it was to be led by rural social enterprise organisation Plunkett. But, like all spending decisions made after January this year, it came under review when the Lib-Con Coalition came into power.
Plunkett CEO Peter Couchman called today’s news ‘devastating’ for the 82 communities that had already been in touch with Plunkett looking for support to take over their pubs.
‘This is devastating news for each community which had hoped to save their local as a co-operative,’ said Couchman.
‘Communities owning and running their local pub has been used by the Prime Minister constantly as an example of the Big Society at its best.
‘If communities are to take control of the problems they face then they are going to need help and advice to stop them re-inventing the wheel.’
Couchman said that Plunkett would look to hold a summit on community owed pubs to try rescue elements of the scheme, including the £7m private and philanthropic finance that had been pledged as part of the programme.
‘We can’t leave these people stranded by this decision. The summit will look at how the expertise and the resources from the co-operative movement can save some elements of the scheme without the government.
‘We don’t know how but we’re determined to try,’ said Couchman.
Local government minister Bob Neill argued that ‘pubs don’t want state handouts – but they do want to be able to compete on a level playing field’.
He pointed to a number of initiatives, including dropping the planned cider tax which is meant to help pubs stay afloat.
He also pointed to the Localism Bill due in November, which will allow communities to have first bid to take over pubs, where they are up for sale. And further pointed to the funding of the Asset Transfer Unit as an example of the government’s support for community ownership. However, as this information and support programme only applies to buildings transferred from the public sector it is not relevant for community pubs.
Couchman said: ‘Promised support for a Community Right to Buy is very welcome but without proper support it will be a community right to fail.’
This month's Social Enterprise cover feature is on community owned pubs - see below