The first round of bids for the government’s £150 million Community Ownership Fund is now open.  The Fund has been established to help communities take ownership of ‘at risk’ assets and continue benefiting from the local facilities, community assets and amenities most important to them.

The Fund will run for 4 years and there will be at least 8 bidding rounds in total.

What funding is on offer?

  • Grants of up to £250,000 to meet up to 50% of the overall capital costs (in exceptional cases up to £1 million)
  • Some of the grant can be used to help meet renovation costs
  • Revenue grants of up to £50,000, awarded on a non-match basis, to cover project development costs and working capital post-acquisition

What counts as an ‘at risk’ asset and what types of assets are eligible?

  • Focus is on physical assets that are up for sale, planned for sale or listed for disposal.  These could include:
    • sporting and leisure facilities
    • cinemas and theatres
    • music venues
    • museums
    • galleries
    • parks
    • pubs
    • post office buildings
    • shops
  • Derelict or neglected assets are also eligible, as long as it is clear how the asset will benefit the community and be sustainable
  • In the vast majority of cases the fund cannot be used for the refurbishment of assets that are already community owned
  • New-build projects to develop new amenities, are not eligible

What types of organisations are eligible to apply?

  • Applicants must be incorporated, have a clear community purpose and an ‘asset lock’
  • Must be managed and/or accountable to its beneficiary community
  • Community interests companies, charities, co-operatives, community benefit societies and companies limited by guarantee are all eligible

How can you match fund?

  • The fund can be matched with other public funds, including Lottery funding and funds like Future High Streets Fund, Towns Fund, Community Renewal Fund and Levelling-up Fund
  • Grants, loans and other social investment can also make up the match
  • Government has given community shares explicit prominence in the prospectus
  • Some forms of ‘in kind’ contribution can also help make up the community’s match

How will applications be assessed?

Round 1 applications will be assessed on the following 4 criteria:

  1. Strategic case:  demonstrate that without intervention the asset would be lost to the community, the impacts that this would have and support they have from the community and other partners.
  2.  Management case: the objectives and deliverability of the project and how the asset or amenity will be run sustainably.
  3. Potential to deliver community benefit:  using the outcomes framework, applicants should show how the asset will deliver community benefits under community ownership.
  4.  Added value of the community asset based on community need:  using local data and information on community need, show the added value of the asset or amenity to the community.

Although Round 1 is open until 13 August 2021, only organisations who are already at a very advanced stage should consider submitting an application in the first round. This would include having an ‘at risk’ asset identified that is about to be sold, a fully incorporated organisation setup, at least some of the match funding already in place, a credible business plan and strong evidence of community support and benefit.

What to do next?

Step 1:  Read the official government guidelines and assessment criteria.

Step 2:  The Cumbria Social Enterprise Partnership can support your group with an application to the Community Ownership Fund, including any advice needed on strengthening your legal structure to ensure your organisation is ready to apply for the funds, through their fully funded Social Enterprise Support programme.

Please contact us at info@secumbria.org for more information