Iain Neville is Head of Economic Inclusion at the West Midlands regional development agency – Advantage West Midlands. He spoke to us at the conference held on March 26th 2010 to share what has been learnt in the Birmingham pilots with local authorities and community groups from around the region.
You can listen to his thoughts below, but some of the key points he made are:
- People who are economically excluded – out of work or underemployed – can be helped through community asset transfer by raising aspirations in some of poorer neighbourhoods.
- AWM began by working with Development Trusts Association to do some research to see if their is a link between asset transfer and economic benefit
- AWM decided that their most useful role was to work with Birmingham City Council to support their ongoing efforts working with community groups – allowing AWM to learn more about how this might have economic impact
- Iain would advise local government officers to put the suitability of the community organisation first. Don’t start with a building you want to gte rid of, work with a community group to ensure they are able to make good long term use of that building.
- Is the community group clear in it’s purpose and it’s business planning. If note, put the transfer “in the back pocket” and work with the organisation to help them develop.
He also mentions what is referred to as Viability not liability – ensuring the future viability of the community group is put ahead of handing on liability for buildings.
- “Palming off” a building on a community group not yet ready “that way lies madness” and the community group may look like it has failed, when it was never suitable to take on the role. That then undermines politicians confidence in community asset transfer.
- Advice to community groups: “If it’s one active citizen I’d be worried”, they need a group of people behind them. Have they throught through the risks. Keep you objectives the same, not change those because of asset transfer. Don’t become an organisation who’s purpose is to run a building.
- What next, the learning from Birmingham can be adapted in many places. The danger is that this is simply treated as part of an efficiency drive. The aim is for the council to get greater value out of current assets, not simply saving money. Council’s need to understand the value to a whole area – also through local strategic partnerships and even total place.
Iain gave a presentation to the learning conference on March 23rd 2010. Here are his slides:
Any thoughts please use the comments below.