Political and Legislative History

AuthorSimon Adamyk
Pages11-17
Chapter 2


Political and Legislative History

POLITICAL HISTORY

2.1 In the early 2000s there was mounting concern that assets benefitting local communities were being lost to their community. This was because, if the landowner was proposing to sell the asset, by the time the local community had begun to respond and organise itself to try to put together a bid for the asset, the asset had been sold. This coincided with a period during which a large number of local pubs, village shops and local libraries were being sold off or closed because they were no longer profitable or viable.1

2.2 Both Labour (then in power) and the Conservatives (then in opposition) looked into trying to involve the local community more in the ownership and running of local assets. They came at the issue from different angles.

2.3 On the Labour side, in September 2006 the then Labour Government announced the establishment of a review of existing powers and policies in relation to the transfer of public assets to community management and ownership. This became known as the ‘Quirk Review’ (named after its chairman). The review reported in May 2007, Making Assets Work – The Quirk Review of Community Management and Ownership of Public Assets, often referred to as the ‘Quirk Report’. The Quirk Report analysed the principles and potential benefits of community ownership and management of public sector assets, and looked at the potential transfer of public assets to community ownership and management. It only looked at the potential transfer of public assets, that is to say, buildings or land owned by a public sector body (such as a government department or agency

1Based on the Valuation Office Agency rating data, the number of public libraries in England fell from 3,066 in 1998 to 2,820 in October 2010; the number of pubs fell from 49,520 in 1997 to 46,060 in 2009; and from 2002 to 2007 an average of 8,743 pubs failed every year (Department for Communities and Local Government, Localism Bill: community right to buy – Impact assessment (DCLG Publications, January 2011), para 4).

12 Assets of Community Value: Law and Practice

or a local authority), and did not look at creating any new regime in respect of the transfer of assets in private ownership. The Quirk Report also rejected a proposal for introducing a community right of first refusal in England.2The then Labour Government accepted the recommendations of the Quirk Report and decided to implement the Quirk Review proposals in full.3The Government set out its policies for local authority asset management in the Department for Communities and Local Government’s framework document, Building on Strong Foundations
– A Framework for Local Authority Asset Management
in February 2008. The community ownership of assets did form part of those policies.4However, a community right to buy or a community right to bid (in the form which it later came to take in the Localism Act 2011) did not feature in those policies.

2.4 On the Conservative side, the Conservatives set out their localism agenda in 2009 (when they were still in opposition) in their Green Paper, Control Shift: Returning Power to Local Communities.5The proposals were intended to ‘[return] power to local communities’ and ‘shift power away from the central state and firmly back to local people’.6The proposals included, among other things, policies in various spheres intended to ‘apply local solutions to local problems’, such as by ‘preventing the closure of vital village pubs or shops’.7

2.5 More specific proposals were set out in a Conservative party political broadcast on 19 November 2009.8In that broadcast, the then Conservative leader (David Cameron MP) proposed a specific ‘community right to buy’ where ‘the community has the first right of refusal’. He explained that, ‘If there’s a village hall closing, if there’s some public building closing, the community should have the first chance to buy it off that government organisation and to run it for the community on a not-for-profit basis’.

2Quirk Report, pp 23–24.

3Department for Communities and Local Government, Opening the transfer window: The...

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