Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

Legal comment: Power to the people

Joanne Davison, associate solicitor at Muckle LLP, on the power of community involvement.

WHEN Prime Minister David Cameron talked about his “big passion” being the “big society” in Liverpool this month, the spotlight once again fell on how we could help call time on pub closures.

Launching four community projects around the UK, including a local buy out of a rural pub, the coalition leader said community groups should – amongst other things - be able to run post offices, libraries, transport services and shape housing projects.

Whatever their political views, not many people will argue with the value and contribution that ‘people power’ can make to their local communities.

But people power is much more than a vague concept – people can help provide very real, much needed services and make a valid contribution to the economy. The most recent Beer and Pub Association report states that 40 community pubs are closing every week, with the loss of hundreds of jobs and at a cost of millions of pounds to the economy.

It goes without saying that, when pubs call last orders for the very last time, it comes as a real blow to the social fabric of their communities. Recently, we have seen more and more communities coming together to save their pubs and provide additional facilities and services.

The Bridge Inn at Whorlton in County Durham now offers bread, milk, eggs and stamps to local residents, and the George and Dragon at Hudswell, North Yorkshire, reopened in May after 18 months of standing empty.

Services in the pipeline include a small branch library, internet access and a village shop. This kind of community investment model has been used to fund fair trade, windfarms, hydro-electric generators, village shops and pubs.

The George and Dragon at Hudswell was the third pub in the UK to have been successfully saved by their local community with an Industrial and Provident Society (IPS).

We are beginning to see more and more evidence of ‘people power’ and more of these types of community ventures, and it’s not difficult to see why.

In the current marketplace, the IPS model is proving to be both successful and a particularly viable option in the bid to halt the decline of our community pubs.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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