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September 24, 2008

Government announces establishment of asset transfer unit

Communities and local councils in England will benefit from a new service offering support and advice on asset transfer. £1.3 million has been committed over three years to establish the Asset Transfer Unit which will be led by the Development Trusts Association with support from the Local Government Association and the national federation Community Matters

Barry MacCarthy, New Start

The biggest challenge ahead for the new asset transfer unit is to persuade councils in England that handing over disused public buildings to communities will help them achieve their objectives, according to Hazel Blears.
The communities minister told New Start asset transfer ‘must be connected with what people care about like jobs and homes and support for people in their neighbourhoods’.

Her comments came after she announced the Development Trusts Association (DTA) would lead the unit with support from the Local Government Association and national federation Community Matters.

The unit, which was first announced in the community empowerment white paper in July, will provide advice to residents and councils by drawing on lessons learned from the successful transfer of 20 buildings to local organisations.

Ms Blears told delegates at the DTA’s annual conference in Leeds this week that she expected the scheme to accelerate asset transfer once it is up and running in January.
She said the government was supporting 60 local authorities that are hoping to transfer assets to communities over the next two years.

‘Making a success of asset transfer is about a long-term relationship between local authorities and community organisations. It’s about a hard-headed business model that works.’

But she added that asset transfer was not the answer to every problem and that councils sometimes needed to sell land to maximise their receipts.

DTA director Steve Wyler said the association was working with communities to help them recognise the difference between public assets that would be a liability and those that could be acquired to benefit the community.