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Community shares programme gets £3m boost

Sutton Community Farm in London

The Community Shares Booster programme is set to re-launch in the new year, helping fledgling community businesses with support and match funding.

The £3m injection into the programme will support groups in England seeking to launch community share offers, with a business development support grant of up to £10,000 and up to £100,000 match funding once their share offer goes live.

The Community Shares Booster programme began in 2016 and supported 15 businesses, including Sutton Community Farm in London and Leeds Community Homes. It helped restore Stretford public hall in Manchester and a Victorian railway pier in Suffolk.

The first grants and equity investments will be available from early 2018 as part of a five year programme, delivered by the Community Shares Unit, a joint initiative between Co-operatives UK and Locality and funded by Power to Change.

Simon Borkin, programme lead at Co-operatives UK, said: ‘We believe the community shares market still has the potential for further growth and the Booster programme will provide a welcome stimulus to community businesses considering raising this form of socially-aligned and patient finance. We have already invested alongside as many as 3,000 investors and look forward to supporting many more offers through this scheme.’

To date, the programme has supported 15 community businesses, awarding over £100,000 in development grants, as well as investing over £600,000 in 11 community businesses as matched equity investments, releasing £1.5m into the community business market.

As Ged Devlin, programme manager at Power to Change, said, many of these businesses are in the most deprived part of the UK.

‘Around a third of Community Shares Booster awards to date have been made to groups located in the 10% most deprived communities and we are confident the programme has engaged groups which, but for this support, would not have considered issuing a share offer. We are looking forward to supporting more disadvantaged groups and help put businesses into community ownership.’

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