Firuz Ali of Urban Design at Birmingham City Council and Lesley Steele of the council run Birmingham Property Services talk about their involvement in the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme in Birmingham:
Firuz and Lesley reflect on their roles as project managers of the Norton Hall and Perry Common projects respectively. They describe how this differed from more usual projects and share their thoughts on the complexities to be aware of, lessons to take away and the positive outcomes of both projects.
What stood out in these Community Asset Transfer Projects?
- Due to the nature of the project, the clients were deeply involved in (more…)
Iftikar Karim has been involved with Asset Transfer since 2002. As a board member of Norton Hall Children and Family Centre he has helped the organisation navigate taking on a 50 year lease of their building from Birmingham City Council and then undergo a £250,00 renovation.
Here he talks about the lessons he has learnt and the advice he would give to other community groups and local authorities:
What are the benefits of Community Asset Transfer?
- It is a great opportunity to empower community (more…)
After two long years of effort the building was finally handed over on March 31st 2010.
Andy Fisher – site manager – sums up progress so far.
Jane’s remit is to work with third sector organisations in a role that engages with each of Birmingham’s ten constituencies, Birmingham Property Services and Legal Services. She shares her thoughts on the progress of the Asset Transfer Development Programme:
The scope of the development programme
- it was apparent that Birmingham City Council needed a simplified and clear model for Asset Transfer
- Birmingham City Council was one of the first Local Authorities to work with the Development Trust Association and act as a catalyst to work at how the process might be changed
- Birmingham didn’t just look at the transfer of a single building but the whole policy and procedure of Community Asset Transfer
Agreeing a lease and reducing costs
- it is crucial for organisations to get around a table (preferably with their lawyers as part of the conversation) from the outset to agree terms
- by carefully agreeing and drafting detailed Heads of Terms, the time and cost associated with drafting a lease can be greatly reduced
What is “measuring value”?
- Birmingham City Council is bound to charge market rent for property. Currently this is offset by grant but can only be agreed on an annual basis
- As part of the programme, the Council have developed a tool to appropriately assess the ‘added value’ of an organisation against local and national objectives which is then offset against the market rent
- ‘valuing worth’ assessments can assist organisations in applying for external funding
Advice for similar projects
- Consultation – speaking to people is crucial. Speak to as many stakeholders as possible, as widely as possible, from the very start
- Building trust and working together is so important to achieve much better outcomes for everyone
- Third sector organisations are very savvy and have great capacity to achieve high quality work especially working with public and private organisations which have very different structures
Carrie Weekes is the West Midlands regional development manager for the Development Trusts Association. She’s based at a community run building – the Post Office Building in Moseley – and has many years experience of understanding and supporting community asset transfer
As she says in the interview below, (more…)
Ifor Jones is the Director of Constituency Services at Birmingham City Council. As he says in the interview below, he got a involved in the current community asset transfer work a little down the line.
A key part he played was to help nurse through last minute contractual issues involving the council’s legal officers and Norton Hall and Witton Lodge Community Association.
Ifor also reflects on what he thinks the council and community groups can learn from the ground laid by the work of officers like Karen Cheney and Jane Edwards in property:
- The legal side was “tough”. Don;’t think a community hall is “small beer” compared with the big property deals. The art is building trust but also recognising and respecting that this is a legal process.
- An outcome has been a lease model developed during this process.
- Birmingham has chosen to do community asset transfer one step at a time, rather than a “big bang” of many buildings at once – and now has the benefits of learning from doing it this way.
- Valuing worth has many applications – including with worklessness and unemployment.
- For a local authority: Not a universal panacea. The quirk report was important but “all it did was open up a set of possibilities”. Temper making this happen to local circumstances. Fit it to local policy and politics. Birmingham likely to use this as a tool kit, because asset transfer wont always be the right answer. Let people innovate, especially between strategic staff and community groups.
“…a quality systems and standards for the community sector. Developed by Community Matters in consultation with its members and other core stakeholders, VISIBLE Communities™ is a unique approach to promoting quality and best practice in the community sector.
VISIBLE Communities™ is based around a set of seven core principles that we believe underpin strong sustainable community organisations.
By sustainable we mean well run, financially sound, and delivers high quality social impacts.”
As part of this programme Birmingham has been piloting using these standards through a number of information and training workshops with community groups. We have also supported 5 0rganisations through the assesment process:
- Allens Cross Community Association
- Culmington Hall Community Association
- Oddingley Hall Community Centre
- Witton Lodge Community Association
- Quinborne Community Association
This was the presentation given at the Community Asset Transfer development conference in Birmingham on March 23 2010.
for more information please go to www.visiblecommunities.org.uk.
What is meant by valuing worth? It is a process and tool developed by Birmingham City Council as part of this programme.
Tony Rich – a consultant who runs Rich Regeneration – was brought in to do some work on Measuring the Social Value and Impact of Asset Transfer. He has also written this Guide to Managing Risks in Asset transfer for Communities and Local Government for the Department of Communities and Local Government. He was asked to research possible risks and mitigation measures and, based on regional consultation events with local authorities and people from the third sector. You can download a pdf of that report by clicking here.
We managed to speak to Tony at the event run on march 23rd to spread learning from the Community Asset transfer programme in Birmingham. You can listen to his thoughts on how to measure social value below:
He outlines some key advanatges to finding new ways to value the social and economic worth of transferring assets to community groups:
- Coming up with ways to place a value on what happens help councillors understand why they would support community asset transfer. That encourages more asset transfers.
- Captures the value of volunteer effort
- Can be offset against the price of a piece of land – so justifying discount of a market rent.
- Encourages community groups to think about the value they give to their community and what extra value they can get from having a building. It gives people new tools to telling the story of the benefit they bring.
The end result can be a figure for the social value of the building being used more intensively.
Tony’s advice was:
- To a council officer this work is about going out and making partnerships with community groups. It can’t be done from a desk. The building transfer is just the start, not the end.
- Community groups have to understand they can’t take for granted they are doing good work. They have to be able to make their case and demonstrate it in ways that different audiences understand.
Tony gave this presentation which fleshes out the detail:
All thought provoking, please feel free to comment.