- Local authorities are facing huge budget cuts, and have little legal requirements for land management, meaning it can face especially large cuts. Reduced budgets often lead to a focus on ‘value for money’, which undervalues added social and environmental value.
- Common good land users compete for public contracts with large companies, who have the resources to take on ‘bundles’ of services cheaply.
- There is a resistance to new approaches to land management within local authorities. Councils are large, political, organisations, often operating on a short term time horizon. There can be poor internal coordination and resistance to changing the status quo.
- There can be a lack of understanding between councils and land-based social enterprises. Local authorities lack awareness of the models and value of land-based social enterprises. Land-based social enterprises can fail to frame their activities in a way that appeals to councils.
- Austerity disproportionately affects more deprived areas. These areas may also be the most challenging for community and social enterprise business models.
In a time of austerity, local authorities are having to think differently about how they manage their land, in particular by looking for ways to reduce costs and increase income. Social enterprises have the potential to help achieve this, whilst also using public land to deliver a range of other positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes.
What needs to change:
- Local authorities need more creative and strategic commissioning practices. This might entail:
- Commissioning for outcomes – aiming to use land to achieve wider social and environmental benefits, and developing new strategies to do so.
- Publishing pro-social enterprise strategies – public landowners should explicitly support social enterprises and make it clear how these groups can get access to land. This could be by publishing social value strategies, or social enterprise contract management schemes.
- Involving relevant social sector stakeholders as early as possible in the commissioning process.
- Support new funding models: examples include Parks Improvement Districts.
- Land-based social enterprises need to engage with local authorities and local stakeholders, by:
- producing strong business plans and a convincing narrative for what they can offer local authorities in terms of skills and services.
- developing relationships and networks inside and outside councils.
- Central government should consider policy changes such as:
- Strengthening and extending the Social Value Act, which requires commissioners to take social value into account.
- Strengthening and extending community rights legislation, such as the right to bid, or our proposed ‘community right to manage’.
- Better Land-Based Economies: this project follows three food growing groups trying to access land. Successful engagement with planning authorities is a key part of this journey, and we are collecting lessons and evidence on it.
- Alternative parks models in London Borough of Barnet: Barnet Council commissioned Shared Assets to explore different options for the governance of their parks and open spaces.
- Derbyshire County Council
- The Access to Land network is collecting information on local authority processes across Europe.
- Social Enterprise UK has good resources on the Social Value Act
- See further reading section from Making Public Land Work
- Rethinking Parks Programme
Scroll down to the posts below to read our report ‘Making Public Land Work’ and for the latest updates on our work in this policy area.
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This report explores how social enterprises can help improve local authority land management. It highlights the key ‘need to know’ information about local authorities and social enterprises, potential barriers new partnerships might face, and a range of ways to promote these models.
The report draws on research and our wider consultancy work to introduce the key issues we identified. It also proposes a range of strategies for enabling social enterprises and local authorities to work together to make public land work for everyone. [Read the full report here]
This report was commissioned by Forest Research, and reviews the data available on the management of woodlands by local authorities in England. The report focuses on the extent to which community groups and social enterprises are involved in their management. [Read the full report here]