Community Right to Bid: Step 7
Managing the asset
If your offer to buy an asset of community value has been accepted – congratulations!
This section looks in headline terms at:
- Preparations for managing an asset
- Relevant property issues
- Building works
Preparations for managing an asset
Once your offer is accepted, you will need to instruct your solicitor to proceed with the acquisition of the property. The time taken to go through the legal formalities will afford you valuable time to prepare for actually taking over management of the asset.
You will need to contact your funders/investors to let them know that your bid has been successful and then arrange to draw down and transfer the same to the owner in keeping with the terms and conditions of sale.
You will already have a business plan for the project. Use your business plan to pull together a time-line. If the asset is closed, you may have some flexibility around your timeline – for buildings which are operational, there may be less flexibility.
Examples of key issues to include in your timeline:
- Lead-in time to recruit staff or volunteers
- Essential training for staff or volunteers
- If you need to apply for planning permission or change of use, then your plans should take account of deadlines and the time it will take to receive a decision
- If you need a licence (for example to sell alcohol or play music) then you need to be aware of relevant deadlines and the time taken to receive a decision
- If you need to purchase specialist equipment, this may need to be ordered in advance of opening your building to staff/user groups
- Advertising and promotion – once you have an acquisition or opening date, then you can begin attracting or retaining customers. The pricing structure for your services will have been included in your business plan – this will need to be finalised.
- Sorting out practicalities around the property – see below.
Think about how the property and the services you will be running will work in practice. Good questions should cover what needs to be done and who will do it.
There are many things you will need to deal with before or upon taking possession of the property.
These are just some examples to help you begin making plans:
- Arranging insurance: as a minimum, this will be buildings and contents insurance and public liability insurance. If you are employing staff, you will also need employers’ liability insurance.
- Decide who will be the key holders: i.e. people who will be called out if there is an emergency at the property outside of opening hours.
- Building security: what measures are needed to ensure the building is secure when it is not in use. This is a particularly important if there is likely to be an extended period when the building is closed.
- Health & safety: you may need to develop a health and safety policy. You will need to consider first aid, fire and hazardous substances and appoint someone as a fire or health and safety coordinator. You may need to arrange for installation of fire or other safety equipment before you open.
- Utilities, services and rates: you will need to select providers of utilities and services and arrange for connection. Ensure that you are clear about lead-in times, particularly if the service is crucial to your business. Don’t forget about IT connections. You will need to register with your local authority to pay business rates, where applicable.
- Cleaning: what are the cleaning standards for the building, how will cleaning be carried out. Are there any external areas or grounds – how will these be maintained? Will you employ another organisation to do some or all of this work – if so you may need to factor in time to get quotes and select a supplier.
- Contracts: you are likely to need a number of contracts for supply of specific services – common examples are sani-bins, nappy bins, and fire equipment supply and regular checks.
- Policies: depending on the nature of your business, you may need to develop formal policies, for example, to cover arrangements for working with children and vulnerable adults or agree a process for handling finances day-to-day.
- Tenants: if you are considering letting space to other organisations, you may need to draw up relevant paperwork with your solicitor.
- Disability: you will need to check that you are able to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Moving in: you will need to make arrangements for removals, change of address, etc.
You need the time and space to get to know your building – for example, make sure that key people in the organisation such as operational staff, key holders and others know:
- Where the stopcock is and how to turn it off
- Where the fuse box is and how to reset it if there is a problem
- How to operate the heating system
- How to operate any security systems like burglar alarms or shutters
- Where the fire exits are and how to use fire equipment
- What the fire plan is, who the coordinator is and when it is tested
- Where first aid equipment is and who your first aiders are
- Any systems for admission to the building if applicable, e.g. signing in book, visitors badges
- Locking up and security on the building – including who is responsible for this
- Money handling – giving receipts, petty cash, banking money, whether money can be left on the premises overnight.
- You must ensure that essential signs are in place – fire exits, public liability insurance, first aiders.
Good planning should minimise problems but taking on a property asset is a major undertaking, so be prepared for some hitches. Try to make sure that:
- You know who is coordinating the process of acquiring the property and moving in – it may be more than one person, but you need to be ensure that everything is covered and there is regular communication
- Keep in touch with key stakeholders and keep them informed
- If there are hitches, look at how they can be resolved and the effect they will have upon your timeline – if this will impact on stakeholders, ensure that you negotiate with them.
If your plans include building works, then these will have been detailed in your business plan. Further information about implementing a building project can be found in To Have and To Hold.
This section deals with two key issues which can arise in relation to building works:
- Interruption of business
Major building works are disruptive. You will need to consider whether the work can be done in stages – allowing you to continue to operate from the building – or whether the building will need to close. If you need to close the building, will you also close the services – or will you operate from another building? If you close or move the service, it is important to plan carefully to minimise disruption to your customers, as you want to retain their custom once the building reopens. If you close the services or rent other premises while building work takes place, you need to ensure that you take the drop in income or increased costs fully into account in your cash flow projections.
Building work can and often does over-run. Bear this in mind in your plans for re-opening or re-locating your services. If you are leasing alternative premises, build in some flexibility. Don’t organise high profile events in the first few weeks after opening – in case the building work is not finished or there are teething problems.
Take time to enjoy your new asset of community value. Ensure that everyone involved in supporting the acquisition has the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the success.