An economic framework for Community Asset Transfers for Power to Change
Power to Change (PtC) is an independent trust, established in 2015 as a ten-year initiative to support and develop community businesses across England. Core to their work is the recognition of community business as a new model for local change, and all of PtC’s programmes are directed towards achieving this.
A key aspect of Power to Change's work is the implementation of Community Asset Transfers (CATs): the transfer of the ownership and/or the management of an asset from its public-sector owner to a community organisation (often a community business) for less than market value, to achieve social, economic or environmental outcomes in the community in which the asset is located. Whilst widespread, with over 60% of councils having a CAT policy in place, there has previously been no economic framework for a CAT. To this end, Power to Change approached Pro Bono Economics to create an economic guide to CATs, consisting of a framework for their development, appraisal, implementation and evaluation.
Pro Bono Economics matched Federico Bruni, Robert Marks, Stuart Newman and Vyara Ruseva to this project, all of whom work as economists in governmental departments. The task at hand was to create a useful and accessible resource to support community businesses, charities and other actors to implement and evaluate Community Asset Transfers, taking into account social as well as financial value. By assessing the full benefits of transferring ownership of local assets into the hands of communities, Power to Change and local actors will be able to advocate for the importance of community as an agent of change in a difficult economic and political climate.
The report firstly sets out an economic framework for CATs. It then goes on to define social value, through the 2002 Social Value Act and then through the lens of government, community businesses and academia. Finally, a concise guide on measuring social value is presented, which takes the reader through several methods of the evaluation of CATs and their relative strengths and weaknesses.
The potential impact of this is huge, as it will help community businesses to make a case for the transfer of community assets into their ownership from Local Authorities, and unlock the potential of some £7 billion worth of assets that are currently sitting unused. The report will be used by Power to Change grantees that are looking to implement and value Community Asset Transfers across England.
PBE Patron view:
Sir Alan Budd, patron of PBE and reviewer of this report, stated:
"I am extremely excited about the potential results of the practical application of the findings of this report and commend Pro Bono Economics for mobilising its highly skilled, professional volunteers in pursuit of such an interesting and pertinent cause."
Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, commented:
“At a time when many parts of the country face cuts, neglect and social problems, Power to Change wants to make sure local areas survive and stay vibrant. This report will help local communities to grow and flourish, even in a rapidly changing economic climate. It is time for them to stimulate activity, regeneration and growth by harnessing the value of assets that might otherwise be left empty or unused.
Local authorities such as Leeds, Bristol and Oldham are increasingly seeing CATs as a way of both reducing the cost of public assets and of protecting assets for the future. While sustaining service delivery, they can pursue wider goals such as regeneration, community development and inclusion.
We hope that this excellent framework will encourage more local authorities to engage with CAT, and promote best practice among those that already do. It will also prove invaluable for community businesses which are hoping to take on assets, since it provides crucial insights into a local authority’s options and processes when considering community asset transfer. Community businesses can use it to build a compelling case.”