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New fund aims to save at risk community facilities

By Alan Beresford

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PEOPLE across the north-east are being given the chance to become owners of at-risk local pubs, theatres, post offices, sports grounds and corner shops.

The move comes as part of the UK government’s new £150 million Community Ownership Fund. This aims to build back better from the pandemic by giving communities the power to save the local institutions that bring people together and foster a sense of community.

Details have been published of how voluntary and community organisations across the north-east and the rest of the country will be able to bid for up to £250,000 matched funding to buy or take over local assets and run them.

Up to £1 million will be available to establish sports clubs or help to buy sports grounds at risk without intervention, meaning a group of loyal supporters could become the chairman and board at their beloved local team.

A total of £12.3 million has been set aside for community projects in Scotland, whether they be sporting and leisure facilities, cinemas and theatres, music venues, museums, galleries, parks, pubs, post office buildings and shops.

The Prime Minister unveiled more detail as part of a major speech setting out how the UK Government aims to level up all regions of the country as we bounce back from the pandemic.

News of the scheme was welcomed by Moray Conservative MP Douglas Ross.

He said: “It’s great news that the UK government launched this new £150 million Community Ownership Fund to help ensure that communities across the whole UK can support and continue to benefit from the local facilities, community assets and amenities that are most important to them.

“This fund will help ensure that important assets within the community, such as pubs, sports clubs and post office buildings, can continue to play a key role in towns and villages. I am sure there will be a number of interested groups here in Moray and I look forward to working with them on their bids to help rejuvenate many of these community buildings.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack added: "Alongside the Levelling Up, Community Renewal and UK Shared Prosperity Funds, the Community Ownership Fund is part of a crucial package of UK Government investment to support communities.

"The funds will play an important role as we build back better from the pandemic. I encourage communities across Scotland to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities the Community Ownership Fund provides."

The announcement follows major investment and action from the UK government to level up opportunity and prosperity across all areas of the country, including through the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund and the £220 million Community Renewal Fund.

The UK Government will undertake a series of information events with communities, the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) and local authorities in all parts of the UK. The first bidding round closes August on13 with another seven bidding rounds expected to take place over the next four years.

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