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ResPublica proposes allowing communities to buy and run state assets - and at a profit

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 6 The latest offering from Philip Blond's think-tank ResPublica is out today - To Buy, To Bid, To Build: Community Rights for an Asset Owning Democracy.

It proposes a "sweeping transfer of ownership from the public sector to community groups" of assets such as libraries, leisure centres, roads and ports:

"Given the extent of budgetary cuts, a large proportion of the public estate is no longer sustainable in its current form. We now face an unprecedented mass divestment of state assets... Asset ownership, whether individual or community – or a combination of both – is never an end in itself, but rather the means to an end. The way in which assets are managed will affect the extent to which underlying goals – greater community and personal self determination and independence, reductions in social division and injustice, a narrowing of the poverty gap, enhanced resilience, aspiration, and prosperity – can be achieved. But what is a necessary precondition for any of the above, in low income communities especially, is a broadening of asset ownership.”

The report's ten recommendations are summarised thus:

  1. Community right to buy - To provide communities with a window to acquire an asset of potential community value.
  2. Community right to build - To make it much easier for community projects, which have very strong local support, to get off the ground.
  3. Community right to try - To help communities take on underused assets (empty shops or derelict land for example) on a temporary basis, transforming blight into benefit.
  4. Community right to bid - To give communities the chance to run local services themselves.
  5. Community right to work - To give people on benefits the right to take up part-time paid sessional and short-term work, without disruption to their benefit payments.
  6. Community right to know - To create the transparency necessary for people in their locality to take meaningful action to build community assets.
  7. Incentivising community share ownership - To make it attractive for people, including those on low incomes, to purchase a stake in a local community asset. 
  8. Community vouchers - To encourage people to make investments in local social projects on an associational basis.
  9. Nationwide support for local community agencies - To create local vehicles capable of achieving significant and high impact asset ownership.
  10. Community reinvestment led by the banks - To create a framework whereby banks and the wider private sector will contribute to creating asset wealth in under-served communities

Click here to download the full report.

The idea of a community right to own under-utilised state assets was first proposed in the Sixty Million Citizens document in 2003, written by the Renewing One Nation unit which became the Centre for Social Justice.


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