Liverpool has landed a major transfer coup potentially worth tens of millions of pounds.
No, this is not an exclusive on Jurgen Klopp’s next signing!
This is about a transfer policy of a different kind. One that could lead to a grassroots revolution, not on the football pitch but in the community.
Voluntary groups in the city are set to be given the keys to unlock long-held dreams of breathing new life into run down areas or buildings, creating new businesses and homes and generating jobs for years to come.
Liverpool City Council’s cabinet has today approved what has been described as a game-changing boost to regeneration in its neighbourhoods, by adopting a Community Asset Transfer policy.
At the heart of the policy is the radical concept of converting the “social value” of a community group’s business plan into a monetary value which can then be used to offset the cost of using council-owned land or buildings.
The aim is to support third sector groups whose primary purpose in using a council asset is to offer Liverpool residents social, community or environmental benefits. Council buildings or land may be leased at less than market rent in return for delivery of such social value outcomes.
The passing on of ownership and/or management to voluntary and community organisations, social enterprises and other not-for-profits could be done on either a long-term or a short-term basis.
And by adopting this policy it will allow these groups to then use the commercial market value of the land or property to support their bids for loans or external funding.
The thinking behind the policy goes to the heart of Mayor Joanne Anderson’s triple-lock programme (on equality, inclusion and environmental sustainability) which is aimed at placing social value at the heart of the council’s decision making process and how it evaluates the non-financial benefits of a scheme.
To help create thriving, empowered and compassionate communities for all.
To assist community and voluntary organisations to provide services and support for the city’s most vulnerable people.
The Community Asset Transfer policy has also been designed to respond to last year’s Best Value inspection which found the city council’s support and leasing of properties to third-sector organisations was ad-hoc and lacked a consistent and clear direction.
Another major benefit of this new approach is that it will also offer a solid base for community organisations to work from, allowing them to plan with security and to attract new revenue streams which could help improve the skills and capacity of staff and volunteers.
How will the transfer policy work? Applications will be subject to the city council’s due diligence checks and processes. Potential projects will be assessed for strategic fit, deliverability and impact (economic, social and environmental), and affordability.
The city council will provide two primary means of affordability support:
Rental or transfer of asset at less than market value in return for the delivery of social value outcomes
Or in-kind advice and support.
For disposals where the receipt inclusive of associated fees is over £250,000, the highest tender will be referred to Cabinet for approval.
For disposals under £250,000, the highest tender may be approved and accepted by the Director of Finance and Resources – in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources.
What are the next steps?
The process will be advertised on the city council’s website in the near future, once the new process and a delivery plan has been finalised.
Following publication, the city council will also seek to work with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the third sector to identify any additional capacity building and feasibility funding for potential applicants with regards to community transfers.
And following today’s approval by Cabinet, the city council will now also seek to embed the principles in a forthcoming community-led housing policy, which will support community-based organisations wishing to acquire sites for the provision of affordable local housing.
Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said: “There are so many buildings or pieces of land in Liverpool that are simply being left to rot because the council does not have the finances to resurrect them – while at the same time the city’s third sector is full of ideas on how they can be used to rejuvenate a community.
“This Community Asset Transfer policy is going to right that wrong. This is going to kick-start a grassroots revolution by giving the power to the people to realise their ambitions, hopes and dreams for a plot of land or a building and unlock its potential.
“I said when I ran for Mayor that the council needed to embrace the triple-lock principle of embedding social value in our thinking and decision-making process.
“It’s taken time for that idea to be turned into a reality but 12 months on here is a policy that is literally going to change the face of a neighbourhood and improve the life opportunities of countless people right across the city for years to come – with social value right at the heart of that.”
Councillor Sarah Doyle, Cabinet member for Development and Economy, added: “This is the council seeking to deliver on the City Plan commitment to empower communities to tackle problems and shape their own neighbourhoods.
“There’s scope for some really exciting projects to emerge which could improve delivery of crucial services as well as the places we live.
“I’m really excited by the potential of this as it could have a huge impact on the quality of life of the most vulnerable people in our communities, as the third sector plays a major role in supporting them.
“Once fully adopted it will also make a big difference to community led-housing and another plus for the city is that by transferring the asset, the council will be saving money in the long term be it on maintenance costs, utility bills or security fees. And we know all of these funds could be better invested elsewhere.”
Paul Kelly, Director of Breaking Ground, which supports community-led regeneration by providing advice on maximising the use of assets across the Liverpool City Region, said: “We are really excited to see the development of this policy by Liverpool City Council, one which demonstrates real leadership and vision.
“This places Liverpool at the forefront of this work on a national level and is a true game changer in the way the city aims to enable local communities play a part in their own regeneration.
“This is a really important moment for transparent approaches to community-led regeneration in our region and Breaking Ground will do all we can to support the Council deliver on this exciting agenda.”