Assets or liabilities: the transfer of assets to community organisations in County Durham

fredrobinsonAssets or Liabilities DCC paper (FINAL 15 May 2015)Local councils, especially in the North East, are having a tough time. Funding from central government has been cut—and there are more cuts to come—and demand for services keeps rising. As a result, they have had to find ways to keep services going by being creative and doing things differently.

Over the past three years we’ve been working closely with Durham County Council on theAssets or Liabilities DCC paper (FINAL 15 May 2015ir asset transfer programme. The council has many community buildings, such as community centres, that it has been struggling to maintain. The council felt that the only way to ensure that they have a long term future is to encourage local groups to take on full responsibility for repairs and maintenance as well as management. These groups are able to access funding that the council can’t—and they are best placed to respond to local needs. But it is asking a lot of them.

Our job has been to work with council officers and other agencies to strengthen these local groups, help them think through what asset transfer would mean, and find ways of generating more income. Actually, our role has been to serve as go-betweens, building trust between these organisations and the council.

It’s been fascinating and it’s worked well. We’ve done a report on the whole experience—that’s available here. We came to the conclusion that asset transfer has really been about relationships, not just buildings. Building confidence and capacity takes a lot of time and careful negotiation. But we got there and we are hopeful that these centres will now have a long term future as a key local resource.

Durham County Council is now developing this approach further. Local communities are being asked to take on the running of other services in order to keep them going. We are working with the council on that, and will be evaluating the process and the results over the next two years. A Briefing paper on the process can be found here: Assets or Liabilities DCC paper (FINAL 15 May 2015)