Pioneers Post

CLG cuts community-owned pubs programme

9 August 2010
Peter Couchman

‘Promised support for a Community Right to Buy is very welcome but without proper support it will be a community right to fail.’


Plunkett CEO Peter Couchman said communities will be left 'reinventing the wheel' without a support 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



Cutting the community pubs programme

What is astonishing about this is Bob Neill's statement that this was a "state handout". In fact the £3.3m was for advice and support which would have unnlocked a further £7.5m in private sector loan finance for the pubs. If CLG Ministers do not understand the importance of seed corn money for capacity building, then they'd better talk to people who do before making any further spending decisions.

Community Right to Buy

Have I missd something?
Yes it's disappointing that a grant funding stream has gone, but is it really such a disaster?
Is there really such a lack of finance for viable, sustainable community projects?
Another perspective would be that the Coalition has done many a great favour. If they've saved marginal, potentially disasterous new start community businesses from wasting their valuable time and energy on forlorn hopes, then they've done a good job.
After all, if a community enterprise can't raise the capital and meet its costs with voluntary support, where a commercial business pulled out, then there must be a very good case for not starting at all.
I am all for grant support, just not for encouraging lame ducks, especially perhaps the "Drunken Duck" variety!

Brian Craven Business Advisor Social Enterprise Development St Helens Chamber T. 01744 742000 ext 2227 M. 07825 383613