The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has partnered with a community business charity to help community groups across the region take ownership of their local pubs.
The WMCA will work with the Plunkett Foundation to help new and burgeoning community groups establish action plans, build capacity and raise the finance to take ownership of their much-loved local pubs.
The partnership also intends to address the challenges pubs continue to face from the coronavirus pandemic. Over 2,500 pubs across the UK closed down in 2020 – an increase of 50% on the previous year, and a figure which represents 5% of all pubs in the country. So far, community-owned pubs have bucked this trend with a 99.3% long-term survival rate.
Cheers! Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands (left) and Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council enjoying a pre-lockdown pint. The WMCA funding will help communities save their local pub from possible closure
This investment forms part of the WMCA commitment to double the size of the social economy in ten years and will ensure that local groups are in a strong position to bid for a portion of the UK government’s £150 million Community Ownership Fund when it opens in June 2021. It is hoped that the programme will establish community ownership as a viable model for struggling pubs across the West Midlands.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said: “Pubs are the life blood of our local communities across the West Midlands, but it’s no secret they have been badly hit by the pandemic - along with the wider hospitality sector.
“The cruel reality is that at the time when we are most looking forward to visiting pubs again, there will be less of them to return to. Many pubs will make a strong recovery once lockdown is lifted, but some inevitably will not. That’s why we want to give people the chance to save those pubs by bringing them into community ownership.”
An initial £10,000 investment will enable Plunkett Foundation to support seven community pub groups (one for each borough) across the WMCA area. The offer to the successful groups will include:
Cllr Maria Crompton, WMCA portfolio holder for public service reform and social economy, and leader of Sandwell Council, said: “Communities owning their local assets is a fundamental part of our approach to growing the social economy in the West Midlands.
"Our pubs have social, financial and intrinsic value to our places, and we hope this funding will ensure that all of this value is retained by local people in the long term.”
Chris Cowcher, head of community business at Plunkett Foundation, said: “Community-ownership offers a real lifeline to those communities desperate to save their local pub.
"Plunkett Foundation recognises that at this current time not all residents realise that it is an opportunity that could become a reality in their area and we’re keen to get this message across in the WMCA area.
"We’re delighted to be working with Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and the WMCA to help more groups in the region understand how they can address issues of isolation, loneliness, wellbeing, work and training through local ownership of their pub.
"Our comprehensive package of advice and support has been developed through directly working with the 150 pubs in community-ownership across the UK and our dedicated “More than a Pub” programme, funded by Power to Change.
"We believe that our support combined with future funding from the Community Ownership Fund will together help save iconic pubs in the West Midlands and transform the communities that need them the most.”
Interested groups should contact The Plunkett Foundation via the following: