Communities Week 2017: The Plunkett Foundation sees what communities can achieve when they work together. Whether that is rallying to save their village pub, or volunteering their time to make sure the local shop and café is an open door when members of their community need it most.
The team supports people, predominantly in rural areas, to establish life-changing community co-operatives – enterprises that are owned and run democratically by large numbers of people in their community. These community co-operatives help tackle rural issues such as isolation and loneliness, and come in many forms including shops, pubs and woodlands.
Plunkett has seen that with the right balance of support, communities can successfully take on the ownership of a community business with significant social benefits reaching every member of their community.
Over time, we have seen clear trends in the development of the community co-operative model. For example, there is the pioneer stage when an adventurous few lead the way and apply the community co-operative model to a new form of enterprise. When others see the success of the pioneers, they follow in their footsteps and apply the model to solve challenges in their community. We have seen it with saving the local shop; in 1995, there were just 30 community-owned shops in the UK, and now in 2017 there are 348 community shops open with 43 in our pipeline.
We are now seeing the same pattern developing with co-operatives pubs; in 2009 there were 4 co-operative pubs up and running, and by 2017 we have seen a further 42 communities re-open the doors of their local pub under community ownership. With the right blend of business advice, access to finance and support, we are seeing the co-operative pub model flourish.
With the support of funders such as the Power to Change, Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Plunkett Foundation launched the More Than A Pub programme in March 2016 to support growth in the co-operative pub model. Since launching the programme – which offers business support and access to finance, we have received 196 enquiries, allocated 54 bursaries and are delighted to see the first beneficiaries reopen the doors of their local pub as a community co-operative.
With the right support, communities can save assets that are important to them, and they thrive as community hubs offering so much more than many expected at the start of their journey.
Case Study: The Abingdon Arms, Oxfordshire
With help from the More than A Pub programme, a much-loved Oxfordshire pub is now under community ownership following a six month long campaign by locals to save it.
After word spread about the prospect of losing the pub, a working committee was formed listing The Abingdon Arms as an Asset of Community Value, giving a six month period to prepare a bid to buy the pub.
Over £475,000 was raised in the first month, with shareholders invited to invest between £250 and £100,000 to become members – and democratic owners – of the pub. The amount raised shows that locals felt strongly about saving the pub for the community. With the finance raised, an offer was made to buy the pub. The offer was accepted and contracts were exchanged before Christmas 2016.
The group received business advice and specialist support, including a £2,500 bursary, through the More Than a Pub programme. The Abingdon Arms became the fifth pub to open after receiving this support, funded by Power to Change Trust and DCLG.
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