Community businesses can help transform Mersey neighbourhoods, new report says

Published today by the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute, the report says the city region is home to at least 84 community businesses turnover over £22m a year. Tony McDonough reports

Community, cooperation
Community businesses can be transformational for the Liverpool city region

 

Community businesses can play a vital role in revitalising neighbourhoods across Liverpool city region and a new report is calling for the setting up of a new leadership programme.

Published today by the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute for Public Policy, Practice and Place, the report says the city region is home to at least 84 community businesses, with an annual turnover of £22m, net assets of £38m and more than 600 paid staff.

Power to Change

The institute’s Dr Alan Southern was grant-funded by Power to Change – an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England – to assess the role of community businesses across Merseyside, and suggest ways in which their influence could be strengthened.

Working alongside Helen Heap, Heseltine visiting fellow and chief executive of Liverpool-based social investor, Seebohm Hill, the research team produced the report – Growth, sustainability and purpose in the community business market in the Liverpool City Region.

Two of its key conclusions were that asset ownership is key to financial sustainability and that the region would benefit hugely from a new community business leadership programme should be piloted to cultivate the next generation of community leaders.

Finance-based community businesses play a key role in the region. In total, the report found 11 credit unions in operation, providing a vital function for residents in some of the country’s poorest areas.

Uneven distribution

However, it also found the distribution of community businesses was skewed towards Liverpool with the other five boroughs – Wirral, Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens and Halton under-represented.

The report uncovered evidence of a lack of confidence in the sustainability of community organisations with just 44% were confident in their financial position looking ahead 12 months, compared to 66% nationally.

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A new pilot programme could help develop the next generation of community entrepreneurs

 

It also found that fixed assets – such as buildings – were found to be a major catalyst for growth. Community businesses with the most tangible fixed assets, such as those in the housing sector and community hubs, were the most profitable.

Having assets often delivers security in tenure as well as enabling organisations to borrow money to develop and sustain themselves.

Clear strengths

Dr Southern said: “We know the community business sector in LCR has clear strengths with some very entrepreneurial people at the helm.We also know that finance, investment and management capacity will be critical for future development and that this in turn, will help local communities. 

“To make this even more impactful we can, with the right will, build a new generation of community business leaders. We could pilot a new community business leadership programme to draw out the entrepreneurial drive of a whole number of younger community activists.”

And Helen Heap added: “If we are to achieve economic growth where the benefits are shared by as many people as possible across the Liverpool city region, then our community businesses must be supported to play their full part.”

The full report will be published at https://www.powertochange.org.uk/research/ at 10am on March 25. 

 

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