Guidance for groups taking over buildings

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NEW guidelines have been drawn up to ensure community groups wanting to take over Leeds Council buildings are fully aware of the costs and responsibilities involved.

Groups will need to ensure their plans benefit the wider community and would need to convince the council they could maintain and run the building for the length of its lease.

A report to the council’s executive board says the Government’s Big Society concept and the localism agenda, combined with council’s need to rationalise resources, have led to an increase in requests to take over and run council buildings.

A number of buildings in Leeds have transferred into community ownership with “incredibly positive” results, the report notes.

But it says the council has a responsibility to ensure that unrealistic expectations are not built up and that the groups understand the costs involved.

“The council needs to consider the benefits and risks of each proposal in a consistent manner and to ensure that community asset transfers support the council’s strategic objectives,” said a spokesman.

The report lays out principles around when an asset should be transferred and outlines practical issues that need to be considered.

These include the community benefit as well as the site value and the council’s need to generate income. Assets should only be transferred if the transfer will benefit the wider community rather than particular groups. Organisations will need robust, accountable management and a clear financial system.

The report recommends that all transfers should be on a long lease and that organisations need a viable business plan. The council will need to take into account how much help the organisation will need to get established.

The council is currently considering 12 applications for transfer including Bramley Baths, Holbeck Day Centre and three local libraries.