Spring Budget 2021

Communities can bid for £250k to save local pub

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Budget announcement: communities will be able to access a £150m pot to help them rescue pubs at risk of loss (image: TonyBaggett, Getty Images)
Budget announcement: communities will be able to access a £150m pot to help them rescue pubs at risk of loss (image: TonyBaggett, Getty Images)

Related tags: lockdown, coronavirus, Beer, Legislation, Health and safety, Community

Brits will be able to use a £150m fund to help them take ownership of pubs and other community venues at risk of closure.

Communities can bid for up to £250,000 to save their local, through the UK-wide Community Ownership Fund.

It is a four-year scheme and will open this summer, offering groups matched funding for the money they raise to buy a local asset.

Communities can apply to the Government to double the money they have raised.

Heart and soul

Setting out his plans to revive the economy in the Budget yesterday (Wednesday 3 March)​, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the policy would mean "putting more power in the hands of local people."

Sunak said: “Pubs and sports clubs are the heart and soul of our local towns and villages – they’re the glue that keeps us together.

“This fund will help to ensure vital local institutions aren’t lost to those who treasure them most.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We welcome this funding which recognises the vital role our pubs have played during the virus and should continue to play as the heart of our communities as we recover.”

Change of use threat

Consumer group the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) also welcomed the news. 

CAMRA’s national chairman Nik Antona said the Government and local authorities must ensure that pub protection policies in the planning system are properly enforced to avoid property developers from exploiting the pandemic.

Antona said: "This would also give communities an opportunity and the time they need to use the new Community Ownership Fund to bid to take over the running of their local pub or social club if it is threatened with closure, change of use or demolition."

Communities could also use the £150m pot to buy into at-risk community assets such as sports clubs, theatres, music venues and post office buildings.

Up to £1m matched-funding will be available to help buy a sports ground at risk of loss from a community.

Help licensees 

Speaking on the latest episode of The Morning Advertiser's​ Lock In podcast​, operator James Cuthbertson said the policy represented a "vulture culture."

He explained: "Everyone loves a pub in a village but they [residents] very rarely go to these pubs. There will be some examples that don’t prove the rule.

"Broadly what [the Government] are saying is, we are going to make it really easy to buy your local pub off the couple, guy or girl that has run it and has had their absolute business ripped away the last few months. We are going to make it really easy to take that business off them because they're on their knees now. If they’re really nice they might keep those [former operators] on as managers."

The Government should be helping existing licensees instead, the operator argued.

"I just think it is offensive, put the effort in to helping the person that has given their life to understanding what it takes to run a good pub."

Related topics: Legislation

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