Author Archive

The Guardian reports on Birmingham’s Community Asset Transfer work.

Posted on 27th May 2011 by

Saba Salman of the The Guardian Voluntary Sector network was attracted to write about Birmingham and it’s community asset tranfer work after finding the warts and all case studies on this website.  In a piece she called Making community asset transfer work, she wrote:

The benefits of transfer are clear – community empowerment for local people and asset disposal for the council – but how do you overcome the hurdles?

In Birmingham, the council built on its involvement in the government pilot, recently agreeing a new protocol outlining a consistent path to transfer, from initial expressions of interest to the point of handing property or land.

Karen Cheney, co-ordinator of the council’s community asset transfer development programme, believes clarity is key. “Every local authority has to be very clear as to what community asset transfer means to them.” Councils can dispose off assets at preferential rates in various ways including freehold, a long lease, a shorter lease or a licence to occupy. In Birmingham it involves transferring leasehold, because “that’s protecting both sides – if it is freehold it’s gone and if it goes wrong, retrieving the situation is more costly”. Birmingham’s transfer website is clear, packed with information and avoids any overt council branding.

She also spoke to Masood Yasin of comm:pact about how he organised the transfer of Hutton Hall – which is also covered on this site.

Spaces4change: A modest fun for changing unused spaces into assets for 16 to 25 years olds

Posted on 12th April 2011 by

UnLtd and Channel 4 have just launched a simple programme which might help someone prime some work for a community asset transfer.  Below is lifted from the Unltd website.

About the Programme

The Spaces 4 Change Awards from UnLtd and Channel 4 provides funding and support to entrepreneurial individuals across the UK. We are looking for innovative ideas that unlock unused or under-utilised spaces for young people aged 16-25. Spaces that can be used to practice their cultural, creative or sporting passions.

What is available?

32 Awards of up to £5,000 for individuals or informal groups to set-up and run their own project and support from a dedicated Development Manager.

What are we looking for?

The Spaces 4 Change Awards will support individuals or informal groups with projects that:

  • Unlocks unused or under utilised spaces in their communities;
  • Benefits young people aged 16 -25 years old, and;
  • Allows young people to practice their cultural, creative or sporting passions.

Your project must not:

  • Be part of your paid employment;
  • Involve political or religious campaigning;
  • Involve activities outside the law or against public policy, or anything that encourages ethnic, religious or commercial disharmony;
  • Involve employing people other than yourself to carry out most of the project work;
  • Be used mainly to achieve academic qualifications;
  • Be used to fund living expenses.

Co‐Production in Neighbourhoods: the Neighbourhood Equity Model

Posted on 31st August 2010 by

This is  new report on co-production in Birmingham’s neighbourhoods which proposes a Neighbourhood Equity Model.  (Download as a pdf here).  The Model argues that if government works to help communities empower themselves through taking on commissions to provide public services it triggers a virtuous cycle of wealth creaton, particulalrly in poorer neighbourhoods:

The brokerage or commissioning of public services coproduced between agencies and between agencies and communities leads to better outcomes which strengthen social capital. This leads to increased asset values – including the price of housing – and results in greater neighbourhood equity (the equivalent of the ‘share value’ of the neighbourhood). Wealth created in this way could be used to fund further coproduction.

This is how the report views the process: (more…)

Just get it done.

Posted on 26th July 2010 by

A short video from the Asset Transfer Unit on their site Building Community – one which describes the essence of community driven change – the desire to just get it done.

Of course a lot of the lessons found on this site and others show that getting things done might be the driver – but success depends on much more being in place.

Perry Common Community Hall Re-opens

Posted on 19th June 2010 by

Perry Common Opening selected images

Above are a few photos from yesterday’s open of the the newly refurbished and Community Asset Transferred Perry Common Community Hall. We also have some video which we’ll share as soon as we’ve done some work on it.

Thoroughly enjoyable afternoon following on from a good 9 months of building and two years of other work to get to this stage.

Karen Cheney on lessons from the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme in Birmingham

Posted on 28th May 2010 by

Kareh Cheney of Birmingham City Council

Karen Cheney has been the co-ordinator of  the Community Asset Transfer Development Programme as part of her job as Senior Manager – Community Empowerment Projects Lead in the Neighbourhood and Communities Team of Birmingham City Council – Constituency Services.   Below she talks very clearly about what the programme has achieved (more…)

Bret Willers, Hall Green Constituency Director, reflects on community asset transfer

Posted on 24th May 2010 by

Bret Willers is the Constituency Director for Hall Green in Birmingham, he’s been involved with the community asset transfer development programme as an advisor, constructive challenge  and with an interest in assets may be used differently in his part of the city.


Some of the key thoughts from his interview are:

Valueing Worth – we have not entirely cracked this problem, accountants and others not used to finding value in the intangibles, but it is good see the possibilities being acknowledged.  It is important to develop a process of describing value which both the local authority and third sector organisations can recognise as objective.  It is also worth asking the knock on effect of the value being created in one place to neighbouring places or the wider community.

Key learning for council officers

Be prepared to take risks, be entrepreneurial and look at it from the point of view of a social business.  Be open minded.  Allow 3rd sector organisations to make money – don’t be afraid of profit.

Key lessons for the third sector

Be business minded, it’s not a bad think to make a profit, particularly if the money if ploughed back into your work.  Ask yourself if your proposals stacks up financially and also match your core values.   Be creative – don’t be afraid to take risks

Roger Lloyd – senior lawyer at Birmingham City Council talks about his experience of Community Asset Transfer

Posted on 24th May 2010 by

Roger Lloyd is the Head of Regeneration and Property Law for Birmingham City Council Legal Services.  Click below to listen to his thought on lesson from the Community Asset Transfer Development programme.


Roger’s role was looking after the lawyers in his team who were developing after the lease document, aiming to make sure the governance and accounting side works satisfactorily.  He says a key issue was that the contracts had to take into account the impact of International Financial Reporting Standards which is a radical change, as of April 1st 2010,  in how local government accounts for assets on their books.

Advice to other council officers:

  1. Work with accountants and lawyers of all of the people involved from the beginning, concentrating on securing all the right authority from all the right partners at the very start.  This makes sure that the transaction has the right approval early.
  2. The lawyers need to be brought in right at the beginning to ensure that plans fit the law.
  3. There always needs to be proper communication, and if one side is not understanding the other that is proper communication. Lawyers need to make sure that they iron out misunderstanding by also using plain English.

For third sector organisations:

  1. The project manager from the third sector organisation needs to take time to understand the legal hoops that need to be jumped through.You may not like the position, but understanding it will help
  2. Remember we are trying to find a way through for you.

If you have any thoughts on Roger’s observation you could leave a comment below.

Structured Dialogue, a technique used to improve relationships and learning

Posted on 17th May 2010 by

Structured dialogue is a technique used by the Chamberlain Forum to encourage open conversation between different partners during the Community Asset Transfer process and this film explains some of the principles behind it.  You can find out more on the Chamberlain Forum’s website:

Based on an approach developed in Canada by Ronald Labonte and Joan Feather, it uses peoples’ stories and a structured dialogue around them to evaluate and understand the experience of policies in practice.

Key elements of the approach involve:

  • A provocative theme – something to generate animated discussion
  • A diverse storytelling circle of around 10-15 people
  • Two storytellers willing to share their experience
  • Active reflection of all participants – not just the storytellers
  • Structured questioning – not general discussion
  • A skilled facilitator to manage the process
  • Progress at Perry Common – the walls are up

    Posted on 14th May 2010 by

    Walls and roof go up and on.