Community Ownership Fund (COF)

Funding outline:
The Community Ownership Fund forms part of the package of UK wide levelling up interventions, helping to support recovery, build opportunity and empower communities to improve their local places.

Whether it’s the pub on the high street that’s facing closure, a village shop or a local sports team that might lose its ground – this is an opportunity for groups to take them over and to run them as businesses by the community for the community.

The fund will ensure that communities can support and continue benefitting from community assets, amenities and facilities of value to them now and for future generations.

The Community Ownership Fund will aim to:
• Provide targeted investment for communities to save community assets that would otherwise be lost
• Strengthen capacity and capability in communities to support them to shape their places and develop sustainable community businesses
• Empower communities in left behind places to level up
• Strengthen direct links between places across the UK and the UK Government

We will invest in projects that deliver against all of the following outcomes:
• Protect a community asset or amenity that is at risk and preserve its community value
• Develop a sustainable operating model to secure the long-term future of the community asset in community ownership
• Increase the use of community assets and improve access to local services or amenities

Funding available:
A total sum of £150 million will be spread across multiple bidding rounds covering a period of four years from 2021-2025. A minimum target of spending in line with per-capita allocations has been set in Wales (£7.1m) to ensure fair opportunities to access.

Up to £250k matched-funding to help communities buy, take over or renovate physical community assets at risk of loss is available. In exceptional cases, up to £1m matched-funding will be available to help establish a community-owned sports club or help buy a sports grounds at risk of being lost without community intervention.

The Community Ownership Fund will provide up to 50% of total capital costs, matching other funds and resources raised by the applicant. Applicants will need to demonstrate they have raised other funds to cover the total capital costs of their project.

Small revenue grants of up to £50,000 for feasibility, business development or post-acquisition revenue and working capital are also available for these sporting assets, consistent with other elements of the Fund.

Revenue will not need to be matched and applicants can apply for grants up to a maximum of £50,000 (and no more than 20% of total capital costs applied for through the Fund) providing they can demonstrate how this funding will support them to complete their project and develop a sustainable operating model.

Funding deadline:
The fund will run over four years (until 2024/2025) and will have multiple bidding rounds. The first bidding round opens in July with a deadline submission date of the 13th August 2021. The priorities for the first round are to invest in projects which are ready to access capital funding and complete their projects within 6 months. This bidding round will be most suitable for community groups who have done preliminary work and have a viable business plan to take ownership of the local asset or amenity at risk.

The second bidding round will open December 2021, with a further bidding round in May 2022. The criteria may be amended as needed to ensure it delivers the intended impact within communities.  The Fund will run until 2024/25 and there will be at least 8 bidding rounds in total.

Small revenue grants of up to £50,000 for feasibility, business development or post-acquisition revenue and working capital are also available for these sporting assets, consistent with other elements of the Fund.

Funding Criteria:
The fund will support a range of community ownership proposals. For example, projects may include:
• sporting and leisure facilities
• cinemas and theatres
• music venues
• museums
• galleries
• parks
• pubs
• post office buildings
• shops

Proposals will need to prove the value of the asset to local people and that the asset can run sustainably for the long-term benefit of the community.

The Community Ownership Fund will not provide funding to:
• pay off businesses’ debts or to buy an indebted business
• purchase housing assets
• new-build projects to develop new assets or amenities, unrelated to saving or preserving an existing asset or amenity
• general revenue for community activities or events unrelated to the acquisition or transfer of a community asset or amenity
• purchase costs of publicly-owned assets.

Local authority and town and parish councils are excluded from bidding for the scheme as the purpose of the fund is to support community organisations who are seeking to bring asset at risk of loss into community ownership.

Applications for funding will only be accepted from incorporated organisations which are set up to deliver charitable purpose, social purpose or public benefit.

To be eligible for investment from the Fund, the terms of community ownership must be either the purchase/transfer of the freehold or a long-term leasehold of at least 25 years minimum (with no break clauses).

Projects will not be funded which involve the passing across of unsustainable liabilities (for example high maintenance or staffing costs with no plan on how to cover these) to community organisations and those which may lead to the reduction of services which the council has a statutory duty to provide.

The online portal for applications will open on 30 July 2021. A full application template is published at Applicants should use the template and guidance document to prepare all the information required for their application, prior to submitting via the online portal from 30 July 2021.