Building asset Zest

This FAQ guide shows a range of queries that have been received through our enquiry service.

We hope these will provide community organisations with useful information which may help with submitting an Expression of Interest form and help with general queries. We will regularly monitor and update this document throughout the Community Ownership Fund (COF) support programme.

Impact of the upcoming general election

Will the General Election affect the timescales for announcing decisions on applications and the opening and closing dates of Round 4, window 2?

We have now entered a pre-election period. There will be no further Community Ownership Fund (COF) announcements at this time. If your group had submitted an application in Round 4 Window 1 OR submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) since March 2024, then you will be on the mailing list to receive any future updates that are given by DLUHC. Alternatively, please look at the COF prospectus on gov.uk for future updates.

Will we be informed if there are future bidding windows?

We have now entered a pre-election period, there will be no further Community Ownership Fund announcements at this time. This includes the outcome of Round 4 Window 1 and the launch of Round 4 Window 2. If your group had submitted an application in Round 4 Window 1 OR submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) since March 2024, then you will be on the mailing list to receive any future updates that are given by DLUHC. Alternatively, please look at the COF prospectus on gov.uk for future updates.

General COF FAQs

DLUHC have extended the £2M cap for all asset types. Should we apply for more than £250,000?

DLUHC are expecting the majority of applicants to bid for up to £250,000 of capital funding. However, there will be some projects that require an increased amount of funding in order to save their community asset. From Round 3, DLUHC have extended the maximum funding cap so any project, regardless of asset type, can now apply for up to £2m of capital funding.

Applications for over £250,000 should demonstrate a strong strategic case for funding, including being able to demonstrate that the asset is used by, and benefits, the community at large and not just those in the immediate locality. Applications should also demonstrate the added value the additional funding over £250,000 will bring to the community.

Business plans and any accompanying evidence should contain a higher level of detail, proportionate to the amount of funding applied for and the size and complexity of the project. Applicants will need to demonstrate that their organisation has the skills, experience, and expertise to run a project of this scale, alongside evidencing that that they have, or will be engaging, relevant professional expertise to deliver the project.

Applicants should show that they have explored other sources of funding before applying for a higher amount of funding from the Community Ownership Fund.

When are groups able to submit applications?

We have now entered a pre-election period. There will be no further Community Ownership Fund announcements at this time. This includes the outcome of Round 4 Window 1 and the launch of Round 4 Window 2.

Expressions of interest (EOI)

How is the new Expression of Interest form different from the old one?

DLUHC have sought to make improvements to the Expression of Interest (EOI) form in order to improve applicant experience and to cut the time taken for the applicant to get a result. The new EOI has been simplified to give applicants a result within minutes, meaning that they will be able to see whether their project could be suitable for COF much quicker than before.

Applicants that are not suitable for the fund will be informed immediately after submitting their EOI. All other applicants will receive an email within minutes confirming that they may be suitable for COF.

In some circumstances, where an applicant's answers indicate that they are likely to be suitable but are at risk of not meeting all the requirements at full application, the email will contain further guidance. This will include advice on any issues that they must address before completing a full application.

Just as before, the EOI form and the answers within it will be used by COF Support Programme to direct applicants to relevant information and guidance, and to determine whether they should be prioritised for in-depth support with their COF application.

When will I hear back about my EOI?

Applicants that are not suitable for the fund will be informed immediately after submitting their EOI. All other applicants will receive an email within minutes confirming that they may be suitable for COF.

In some circumstances, where an applicant's answers indicate that they are likely to be suitable but are at risk of not meeting all the requirements at full application, the email will contain further guidance. This will include advice on any issues that they must address before completing a full application.

I haven't received an outcome from the EOI I submitted

Applicants that are not suitable for COF will be informed immediately after submitting their EOI. All other applicants will receive an email confirming the outcome of their EOI.

If you cannot find this email, please check the junk folder of the email address you used when registering for the EOI form, as it may appear there.

If I submitted a successful EOI but the asset I want to save/my project has changed significantly, do I need to submit a new EOI?

Yes – just as with the previous EOI system, applicants must resubmit an EOI form if the asset they are saving has changed or their project is markedly different than when they originally submitted. Your new project may be ineligible for COF funding and so it is essential that you resubmit an EOI form in case you are later found to be ineligible at full application.

Can I resubmit an EOI as many times as I like?

There are no limits on how many times you can submit an EOI, however if your project is ineligible, you should not submit a new EOI unless the circumstances have changed, and you now think your project will be eligible for the Fund.

Is there a help line so I can ask some questions on suitability of a possible asset to see if my project fits the criteria before submitting an EOI?

We can provide initial advice to all interested applicants to help you to determine whether a project is eligible to apply to the Community Ownership Fund, is a good strategic fit and help you to submit an EOI (expression of interest) form to the funder (DLUHC). If you follow the link below, you can contact the COF support programme team by filling out the enquiry form.

How long after an EOI is approved do you have to submit your full application?

The EOI form is currently closed. We have now entered a pre-election period. There will be no further Community Ownership Fund announcements at this time. This includes the outcome of Round 4 Window 1 and the launch of Round 4 Window 2.

If the community group changes its name between the EOI and grant application would a new EOI need to be submitted?

You do not need to submit a new EOI if the organisation name changes as DLUHC know that some organisations do change their name between the EOI and full application stage. For example, if the group is becoming incorporated. Please make the name change clear in your full application and provide a short explanation to detail why the name has changed and highlight the link to the original EOI – there is no need to email DLUHC directly.

What if I have a successful result at EOI but am found ineligible at full application?

The EOI form has always sought to be a light touch assessment of the basic eligibility criteria of the fund and takes a broad look at the key factors which could mean that a project is eligible to apply to the fund.

It is important to note that some applicants may be told that they are suitable to apply to the fund at the EOI stage but may then be found ineligible at full assessment since more nuanced detail on their project is available and may show that they are in fact ineligible.

The form is now automated – I have been found ineligible, but my project is complicated and nuanced, is this new system quality assured?

Every two weeks DLUHC pass the EOI data over to the COF Support Programme so that we can identify those applicants who might be prioritised for in-depth support. When they undertake this data transfer, DLUHC conduct a quality assurance exercise to ensure that no unsuccessful results have been provided to applicants due to a failure in the automated programme.

The EOI form has always sought to be a light touch assessment of the basic eligibility criteria of the fund and takes a broad look at the key factors which could mean that a project is ineligible to apply to the fund. It is important to note that some applicants may be told that they are suitable to apply to the fund at the EOI stage but may then be found ineligible at full assessment since more nuanced detail on their project is available and may show that they are in fact ineligible.

If your EOI result says that you are not suitable to apply to the fund, but you believe that this is incorrect, please refer back to the eligibility criteria which can be found in the prospectus before submitting a new EOI application.

Why am I being asked to submit another EOI when I already received a successful outcome?

Round 4 is the final round of the fund and DLUHC have launched this new EOI form alongside it. To enable the move to the new system, EOIs submitted prior to February 2024 will no longer be valid. DLUHC ask that all prospective applicants, including those that have submitted a successful EOI form previously, submit a new EOI on the updated system if they have an interest in applying in the final round of the fund.

Only applicants who submitted an EOI in the new system will be informed when a bidding window is about to open and will receive the link needed to apply to COF. The new EOI form contains some restructured questions to better prepare applicants for full application, typically takes only 20-30 minutes to complete, and you will receive your result within minutes.

I’m being supported by the COF Support Programme; do I need to submit a new EOI?

Yes – any prospective applicant that wishes to submit an application in Round 4 will need to submit a new EOI. If you are being supported by us, it is essential that you inform us of your new unique EOI reference number so that we are able to track your full application to the fund.

Will we be informed when the bidding window opens to full applications?

We have now entered a pre-election period. There will be no further Community Ownership Fund announcements at this time. If your group had submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI) since March 2024, then you will be on the mailing list to receive any future updates that are given by DLUHC.

Why have I now been told that I do not meet the requirements for COF, even though I passed my previous EOI?

The new EOI form has clarified some of the fund’s eligibility criteria. If you previously received a positive outcome to the EOI but have now been told that you do not meet the requirements for COF, you should first check that the information you submitted has not changed, as this may have been responsible for the change in result.


If the information you have submitted has not changed and you still believe that your project should be eligible to apply for the fund, please re-read the eligibility criteria in the prospectus before resubmitting an EOI application.

Eligibility

Does an asset have to be for sale on the open market to be eligible for COF?

It is not a requirement of applications to COF that the asset must be on sale on the open market. Private sales are eligible. The important aspect is that you must demonstrate that the owner wants to sell, and that if it is not sold to the community, this means the asset is at risk of being lost.

Can you use COF to purchase and refurbish assets from a Local Authority?

The discount on a Community Asset Transfer can be counted as match funding if the timing of the sale fits in with the COF offer of a grant. But COF cannot pay for capital receipts to a Local Authority (only to parish, town and community councils) E.g. a disposal from a Local Authority with a market value of £100k could be transferred for nil, allowing the group to apply for a £100k grant from COF for essential capital works, if the works are required to create a sustainable business model. You will need a close working relationship with the local authority to ensure the timing of the CAT is such that the match is eligible. Getting an accurate valuation from the council that stands up to DLUHC assessment is also key.

Additional requirements relating to publicly owned assets are as follows:

  • The responsibility for delivering any statutory services is not transferred from the public authority to the community organisation
  • The Community Ownership Fund grant received will only be used for renovation and refurbishment costs following the transfer of an asset into community ownership; the public authority will not credit a capital receipt from Community Ownership Fund funding, except in the case of parish, town and community councils.

Specific evidence will be required which covers the following points:

  • Risk facing the asset - the Fund will only invest in community assets which would otherwise be lost. We will therefore need evidence from both the current public owner and applicant about the current status of the asset and why its future is at risk
  • Impact on service provision - evidence that any statutory services currently delivered from the asset at risk will be continued by the public authority. This may be evidenced by a letter or appropriate cabinet paper from a local authority.
Do groups need an asset lock?

Asset locks come with the relevant legal form, so they will work differently depending on what type of organisation is chosen. Local Trust have a useful overview that they provide for their Big Locals: Information-on-asset-locks. Whilst DLUHC don’t talk about ‘asset locks’ specifically, the implication is clear that they are expected.

Are facilities or organisations that primarily serve a specific group of people eligible to apply?

For example, a local charity whose primary focus is providing services for young people with autism.

Organisations should demonstrate how they are accountable to the community they represent, how the asset will operate for the benefit of the wider community in the place where the asset is located, and how they will use the asset to deliver community impact.

There is a point in the full application where DLUHC test wider community benefits and inclusivity. The COF application asks how applicants serve both their community of purpose (the people who use the asset) and how they will appeal to the community of place (the people in the wider local area) and the grant application will be assessed on both points. Some assets may find it hard to score well on the community of place type questions, unless they made the asset available and accessible for example, to community groups to run groups and services.

Would an organisation that serves a religious group be eligible to apply?

Organisations should demonstrate how the community asset will operate for the benefit of the wider community in the place where the asset is located, and how they will use the asset to deliver community impact.

Would a project that has the end purpose of being an operational headquarters/office base be eligible for the COF?

COF is about saving assets that are used by the community rather than just office bases for community organisations. The value of the specific asset to the community would be hard to demonstrate in this example. If the primary use of the building was for offices the application would score quite poorly, as the office itself is not fulfilling a ‘community use’.

Could you apply for tiered funding if you think the application is exceptional? For example, £250k, £500k, £750k?

The COF fund will only make one award to the same asset project, so consider carefully what level of funding you need and wish to apply for and the amount of required match funding that you can raise. DLUHC expect the majority of applicants to bid for up to £250,000 of capital funding. However, there will be some projects that require an increased amount of funding in order to save their community asset. Applications for over £250,000 should demonstrate a strong strategic case for funding, including being able to demonstrate that the asset is used by and benefits the community at large and not just in the immediate locality. The Prospectus states that you must be able to complete the works funded by COF within 12 months of being offered funding.

If the asset has already been secured can phase 1 of a refurbishment project be applied for to be carried out during the 12 months?

The project will have other phases after this.

The COF fund is for community assets that are at risk of being lost to the community. Organisations who already own their asset are eligible to apply for funding to renovate their asset, provided the asset would otherwise be at risk of closure or loss to the community without these renovations. The phase that you are asking to fund would need to be for essential works. Renovations that improve the asset, but which are not essential to ensure its continued operation, will not be funded.

Can the asset be transferred into a community trust during the first 12 months of the project so that the community owns the asset?

The COF fund is for incorporated voluntary and community organisations or a parish, town and community council. The applicant (and recipient) of COF funding must be able to obtain the asset freehold, or a long-term leasehold of at least 15 years with reasonable break clauses, within 12 months. The organisation that applies for funding must be the same organisation that will receive the funding and run the project.

Please explain what your plans are for transferring the asset into a 'community trust' in the EOI form to help you explore your eligibility for this programme.

Do you have a sense of what might constitute “exceptional circumstances” for an application of £250k+?

Applications for over £250,000 should demonstrate a strong strategic case for funding, including being able to demonstrate that the asset is used by, and benefits, the community at large and not just those in the immediate locality. You should demonstrate the added value the additional funding over £250,000 will bring to the community.

You can find more information in the prospectus under section 7. ‘Guidance for projects applying for over £250,000 of capital funding’.

What if you cannot own the building? What if they will only lease it but not sell or transfer the land it sits on?

COF funding can only be awarded to applicant’s who are able to buy the freehold or secure a long-term leasehold of at least 15 years with reasonable break clauses (or who already own the asset).

If there is a lease rather than a purchase what is the optimum number of years required?

If you are looking at a lease, you need at least 15 years with reasonable break clauses.

Does planning permission need to be in place and granted?

Planning permission doesn't need to be in place at time of the application. The application should demonstrate a clear line of sight to a positive planning decision, for example demonstrating positive pre-application planning advice received by the local planning authority.

What if the asset does not make any income at all?

An asset will have to generate income from somewhere. Even if you're not paying for staff, you will have other overheads to pay e.g. utilities, insurance, running costs etc. So, you will need to be able to demonstrate how you're going to secure enough income to be able to keep the asset running and in good condition.

Can you use bridging finance, to purchase the asset, whilst waiting for a COF decision, assuming we have already raised the matched funding element?

COF funding will not pay off or service loans or debt repayments. Any costs incurred before the deadline of the bidding window that you applied will not count as eligible spend. Any spend (i.e. match funding) you incur after submitting but before receiving your outcome letter may be eligible but is spent at your own risk.

When purchasing a privately owned property, what is the guidance relating to the valuation of the property vs the asking price from the owners?

The owners are asking for more than the property is worth.

DLUHC will require an up-to-date valuation, regardless of what the owner is asking.

Are there any specific requirements for the type of valuation that has to be done for a community when they are using COF to purchase an asset?

Does it have to be RICS compliant etc?

If you are buying an asset, you will need a professional independent valuation dated less than 6 months before the asset will be purchased or transferred into your ownership, to show that the purchase price or match funding is reasonable. If it is council owned building then the local authority may arrange their own valuation, but you should obtain your own too. If you are commissioning a valuation, it should be carried out by a RICS Registered Valuer.

Can we use this funding to access land to build affordable housing on? Or to take a long-term lease on a piece of land or a building?”

COF cannot be used to purchase or develop housing or land to develop housing (including social housing). You can include housing elements in your project where these are a small part of supporting the overall financial sustainability of the asset fund general revenue for community activities or events unrelated to the acquisition, renovation, or transfer of a community asset.

Is COF suitable for a heritage asset that is a historic areas of woodland within which a few rare small historic structures remain?

COF isn’t restricted to physical buildings only, so land-based assets are relevant. It will be important to define the ‘asset’ carefully and accurately. Sites will need a clear boundary as DLUHC will want to understand the extent of legal ownership.

Can COF cover retention payments in building contracts – the payment withheld until works are completed?

COF cannot fund any retrospective costs. Retention payments for future COF funded work would be eligible if they fall within the timeframe to spend the COF grant (12 months).

Would a project that involves renovating a building into a community asset that it was previously not designed to be used for, be eligible?

The aim of the COF is to save existing community assets which are at risk of being lost, and which can be run successfully through community ownership. Developing new community assets must relate to saving, preserving, or relocating a past or existing asset. This ‘asset’ can be the service which operates from the building, not necessarily the building itself.

The building we are planning to save is a former pub with owner/ managers residential accommodation on site. Could our business plan retain this?

The business plan should include all the elements of the project and all income streams and costs. This might include accommodation on site for example.

The Prospectus states that COF cannot "purchase or develop housing (including social housing) assets, however you can include housing elements in your project where these are a small part of supporting the overall financial sustainability of the asset".

Can we apply to COF to fund the development or renovation of holiday accommodation as part of a wider project that includes other community assets?

The Prospectus states that COF cannot fund "purchase or develop housing (including social housing) assets, however you can include housing elements in your project where these are a small part of supporting the overall financial sustainability of the asset".

Is this fund restricted to buildings or can this be for outdoor space? We're keen to make land (owned by our organisation) devastated by floods usable

Land can be eligible. Proposals should be evidence based where you would need to demonstrate why it is needed, what is the consequence of its loss to the community, and what benefit it will generate.

Can a single grant cover purchase and refurbishment? If a potential sale is completed months after an award, would this reduce time to spend it?

You can apply to the COF to purchase and refurbish an asset which is at risk of being lost to the community. You will have 12 months in which to spend the award and for the asset to be operational. Please take the timescale for the acquisition and refurbishment into consideration when thinking about applying to the COF - Round 4 is the final round of the fund and we suggest for groups to consider things such as a clear line of sight to ownership, project time scales along with the 12 month spend deadline.

CIC by shares or guarantee - is there a different criteria or chance of success depending on type of structure?”

As outlined in the prospectus, CIC’s are considered an eligible form of organisation, including both CIC’s by shares and by guarantee. Please refer to section 6 of the prospectus which outlines what organisations are acceptable to apply to the COF.

The programme cannot provide funding to public bodies, companies limited by shares (who are not CICs), private individuals or unincorporated associations.

Is the fund available to 'start up' groups responding to new/current/emerging needs?

The COF is about saving community assets which are at risk of being lost to the community. The community asset must have previous or current community use. The COF can also support the relocation and/or redevelopment of assets, but this must relate to saving, preserving, or relocating a past or existing community asset.

Newly incorporated organisations can be set up to own the asset and incorporation must occur before you apply to COF. New/emerging needs can be met in the plans for the asset, such as diversification of uses to meet local needs and to ensure the future viability of the asset.

Can the fund be used to build new facilities on an original site making them more accessible & bespoke or does the facility already need to be built?

The fund is about saving assets at risk of being lost to the community. The COF can support projects to develop new assets but this must relate to saving, preserving, or relocating a past or existing asset. The COF will not provide funding for general improvements or extensions to an asset which is not at risk.

Are community assets that are not fixed to a physical location eligible?

For example, a community owned barge which provides trips for local people, run by volunteers, but is a risk of closure?

Assets that are not fixed, but that have previous community use and are at risk, would be considered eligible.

Will the programme fund contingency?

It is expected and accepted that contingency will be included in relation to refurbishment costs and should link to your risk register. Contingency is an eligible cost to be claimed against the COF capital grant if well evidenced and proportionate.

Match Funding

Now that the COF can provide up to 80% match - we only need to provide the remaining 20% match funding as part of our application?

The new reduction in match funding is a minimum amount that groups will be expected to provide and the 80% that the COF could provide is a maximum amount of funding. Our advice is to try and find as much match funding as possible, as this will make your COF application stronger.

Would the financial worth of a community asset that is being gifted count as 'match funding'?

The value of a discount on a long-term leasehold or freehold, for example as part of a Community Asset Transfer, may count as eligible match funding, depending on the timing of the transfer of ownership, but not the value of a ‘gift’. The value of a discount must be obtained by a professional.

Can you spend the match funding before being awarded the COF grant?

Any costs incurred before the deadline for submitting an application in the window that you applied will not be eligible as part of the Community Ownership Fund project funding package. You should note that any spend you incur before receiving your outcome letter is spent at your own risk. If your application is successful, this spend will be checked by your grant manager to determine if it can be counted as eligible funding. If you are not found successful in the window you incurred your spend, this spend will not be eligible if you decide to apply in a future window of the fund.

Lack of communication between funders has affected some projects, e.g. match was already spent when DLUHC approved the COF grant. This can make the spent funding ineligible as match. We recommend that you do not buy the asset with funding you intend to use as match before a COF grant is approved.

How far along the process do Community Share Offers need to be, to be determined as secured match?

You will need to be along the pathway to launching a share offer, but you do not need to have launched a share offer at the time you apply to COF. You will need sufficient evidence that the share capital will be raised, for example from pledges made by the local community/ members. Any institutional investment (for example shares through the Co-operatives UK Booster Fund) can be included in the match. Negotiating the project timetable with owners and other funders is really important.

What counts as secured match funding? Are written pledges ok?

The more evidence you have to confirm the match funding the better. Ideally you would have a letter from your local authority, charitable trust, social lender etc, confirming that they will award the money. Applicants are not required to have all match funding sources secured at the time of project application. However, you must set out clear and realistic plans to secure the match funding required in your business plan and it will need to be in place in order to draw down and spend your grant funding within 12 months if you are successful.

Can we use volunteers' time as match funding?

General volunteer time cannot be included as in-kind match. If you can provide an invoice for the value of professional in-kind support (for example an invoice from a solicitor who can value the support but is prepared to provide the support for free) this can be included.

Can an assets valuation and the potential sale price difference be used as match funding?

If an asset is valued at £100,000 (verified by independent valuer) and is acquired by the community for £50,000 the difference (£50,000) may be used as match funding, depending on the time of the sale.

If we start work at our own costs, e.g., on urgent repairs, can this be counted as matched funding?

Match funding should not be spent before an award is made by COF. Any monies spent before being awarded a grant are spent at your own risk and may be deemed as an ineligible match if they are already spent before an outcome to your application is received.

Can COF be matched by other DLUHC monies like Town Deal or UKSPF?

Yes, other DLUHC monies are an acceptable form of match.

The application form

Please can you tell me how to answer (Question X) on the application form?

We recommend looking through DLUHC’s application form assessment criteria guidance to understand what makes a strong answer. There are also a series of webinars to help you submit a strong application.

What is the limit on attachments?

You’ll be invited to upload supporting documents for specific questions throughout the application form each with a maximum size of 10MB. These documents are:

  • a business plan (details of what it should contain are included in this document and the published application guidance)
  • a project risk register
  • and evidence of local support
  • if you are purchasing or leasing the asset: an asset valuation or lease agreement
  • if you already own the asset: a statement that confirms this signed by an appropriate person within your organisation, such as a trustee. This should include the date or approximate date of ownership. Alternatively, you can upload a copy of the deeds of the asset, purchase documents or certificate of title
  • evidence of public ownership (if applicable)
We’ve made a full application - Could you please advise as to whether there is a date by which we can expect a decision?

We have now entered a pre-election period, there will be no further Community Ownership Fund announcements at this time.

Can I make edits to my full application once it has been submitted?

In order to maintain consistency and fairness to all applicants, you are unable to make any edits or amendments to your application once it has been submitted.

Do you have any specific guidance about 'Subsidy control and state aid'? Would any award would be classed as subsidy?

You can read the guidance created on My Community: Subsidy control and the Community Ownership Fund

Can updates about the project or further documents be submitted to DLUHC after the closing date – for example an update on match funding?

Unfortunately, DLUHC are not able to accept any supporting documents that were not uploaded alongside the application. DLUHC must ensure a fair and consistent assessment of all bids, so your application will be assessed against what has been provided when the application was submitted.

What would be a concrete example of 'a strategic case beyond the local community'? How could sports facilities make such a case?

A strategic document such as a playing pitch strategy or Local Football Facility Plans (Football Foundation) may have identified your site/project as a priority.

If our EOI has already been approved at £250k and we now want to increase the ask, do we need to resubmit an EOI?”

All EOIs submitted prior to March 2024 will need to resubmit a new EOI on the new platform, even if you have previously had a pass outcome on your EOI. If you are looking to request a higher amount, you will be able to request the increased amount when resubmitting a new EOI form on the new platform.

Like many community businesses we are structured as a Community Benefit Org. Does that that demonstrate inclusiveness?

Community benefit societies are eligible and community share issues are a tried and tested method for raising capital. They demonstrate community support as the community has invested in the asset. It is important to be accountable to everyone in the community, not just investors. Your application would need to demonstrate accountability to the wider community and ways in which the wider community can get involved.

Are there any templates that cover business case, management case etc?

There is a word version of the application form on My Community: Editable version of the COF application form. We recommend using this to draft your answers and share with your Board, etc.

We also recommend looking through DLUHC’s assessment criteria guidance to understand what makes a strong strategic case and strong management case.

There are also a series of webinars to help you submit a strong application here: How to write a strong COF application

How do we deal with VAT costs in our COF application?

If you are VAT registered, the cost of the project and the income to deliver it would be exclusive of VAT. If you are not VAT registered, then you should show the cost of the project and income to deliver it as inclusive of VAT. Some projects will be in a position where the expansion of their work takes them above the VAT threshold, so it is important to understand the VAT implications of your project and, where appropriate, you should take specialist advice on VAT issues.

Revenue Grant

If you didn’t include revenue funding in your EOI can you still apply for it in your application?

Yes, you can apply for the revenue in your application even if you did not include this in your EOI.

Can the revenue part of a grant also apply to aspects required to support the support areas i.e. the ground as well as the building?”

Revenue funding can be applied for to fund the initial running costs of the project. The application form should be clear about the boundaries of the asset and what community facilities are included within in. Revenue funding must be applied for with the capital grant and will be awarded alongside the capital grant to help cover items such as running costs (utilities, staffing and recruitment costs etc.) later stage pre-development studies, professional services, business support in establishing the asset, managing cash flow in the first year of operation.

Can we use the revenue funding to pay for the skills of an outside project manager incl. the tender process and tender appraisal, is this acceptable?”

You can apply for revenue funding for funds to help appoint a professional person to help you manage the project.

Re-applying if unsuccessful

Our application was unsuccessful; can we have feedback on how we can improve our application?

The feedback received via email is the only feedback available from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. We provide webinars about how to submit a strong application.

I have been notified that my application was unsuccessful in this round. I would like to reapply in the next round, do I need to submit another EOI?

If you submitted an EOI prior to February 2024 and have been found unsuccessful in a previous application window, you will need to resubmit another EOI on the new automated system in order to be able to receive a new application link and reapply in another window. Once you have resubmitted an EOI on the new system, you will not need to submit a further EOI if you receive a pass outcome on the new one.

Is there a template of the application available so we can start preparing our application now?

Yes, there is an offline editable version on the MyCommunity website. We strongly encourage you to draft your answers on the offline version, so you always have a copy, and to help draft answers with board members etc. Your work on the online application form will not be saved if you do not complete and submit the application in that round.

Do you have an example or template of a good business plan that we can use as a basis for developing our own?

Business Planning guidance can be found on the My Community website.

We have been unsuccessful with our application, with the new rules how many times can we resubmit?

There are now no limits on the number of applications you can make.

In-depth support

We would like support and guidance with submitting an application– please can you advise on how we get this support?

After the launch of the Prospectus for Round 3 of the fund, there are a series of webinars to provide guidance to applicant’s about how to submit a strong application including how to develop a robust management case.

Some groups who have submitted a EOI will be prioritised for in depth support to help submit a COF application. This in-depth support can include:

  • 1:1 advice and coaching
  • help with developing a business case, organisational governance and finance planning
  • a small revenue grant to secure specialist support such as legal advice or building surveys

Offers of in depth support will take into account levels of community need where the community asset is located and will ensure support is provided across the UK and across asset type. We will make decisions based on the availability of programme funds and unfortunately, we will not be able to offer in depth support to every project.

Some organisations could receive development support with the application. Who will be eligible for this additional support?

The support programme is using a 4-step decision making process to prioritise applicants that have passed the EOI stage for in-depth support. This includes:

  1. Using a suite of national metrics, such as the Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure, and Community Needs Index (CNI) for England, Scotland, and Wales to determine the level of community need and existing social infrastructure in a local place.
  2. Considering EOIs and the project’s maturity and specific support needs in order to recommend whether to undertake a diagnostic assessment with a group.
  3. Undertaking a 1:1 diagnostic assessment with the group in order to determine their readiness for submitting a COF bid, the project’s viability, and the group’s support needs
  4. Confirming the in-depth support package with a specified number of days of support and the tasks to be undertaken with the group.

Decisions will be made based on ensuring a far spread of geographies and that a range of assets are supported. Decisions will also be made based on the availability of programme funds and offers of in-depth support will only be available to some applicants.

Post- award

“What does ‘legal charge’ mean?”

This is a legal document signed by the successful applicant organisation and DLUHC which is registered against the asset at the Land Registry. It will be in place to secure clawback or repayment of up to the whole of the grant funding under the funding agreement entered into.

Do you put a charge on all assets who are awarded COF funding?

For any grants £250k or above, DLUHC will take a legal charge on the building (preventing it from being sold without their permission) for 7 years. For grants under £250k, whether a legal charge is required will be determined by the funder on a case by case basis.

If there is bank funding and the bank wanted first charge, would DLUHC take a second charge?

DLUHC have said that that if other lenders wish to have first charge, then this case can be presented to DLUHC, and they may agree to being a 2nd charge on a case-by-case basis.

What is a formal tender process?

Successful applicants will be required to comply with DLUHC’s procurement regulations when procuring goods and services in connection with the project activities. A formal tender process is required where the value of the contract is £25,000 or over.  Find out what the procurement policy is for your organisation, but it should be clear, open, and transparent.

Value of contract

Procurement -Minimum Procedure

£0 - £2,499

You can make a direct award

£2,500 - £24,999

You are required to obtain 3 written quotes or prices from relevant suppliers of goods, works and/or services

£25,000 or over

A formal tender process is required, e.g. Contract Finder

We have outlined what DLUHC would consider good practice below:

  • A minimum of three written quotations, obtained through formal process, where providers must comply with a specification. The rationale behind selection should also be clear (e.g. if assessors will be looking for price over timescale to deliver, this must be clearly set out). There does not necessarily need to be a PQQ
  • The tender must also be widely available
  • All records must be kept and the reason why the decision to appoint one contractor over another must be clear.
  • All processes must comply with the Green Book (“Managing Public Money”)
  • Alternatively – there are some websites like Contract Finder that would be able to support the whole tender process.
How is the COF grant paid? Will it be in advance, in arrears/instalments?
  • Applicants will need to complete a ‘starting your grant’ form which includes confirmation of milestones and match funding. (issued with the offer letter)
  • Applicants will need to complete a DLUHC Supplier and Creditor form in order to receive grant payments. (issued with the offer letter)
  • From July 2023 DLUHC is piloting 1 grant payment in advance for grants up to £250,000, if DLUHC has not identified any risks with the project. For grants bigger than £250,000, and for projects with risks identified, the payment plan will be determined on a case-by-case basis with a risk-based decision-making process. Match funding has to be in place before the grant can be drawn down
What would happen if the grant is awarded and then delivery slips? We all know what builders are like!”

You will need to provide regular updates to your Grant Manager - it will be important to make them aware of any issues arising relating to milestones of the project's delivery.

Can't find the answer to your question?

Contact the COF Support Programme Team through our enquiry service.

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