Most prominent examples of asset transfer in Northern Ireland tend to be to ‘stewards’, i.e. where ownership is retained by a statutory sector landlord leaving the group to concentrate on delivering community services. Government in Northern Ireland has been traditionally shy of transferring the title to pre existing physical assets, for a range of understandable reasons.
In my interview with Maurice Kinkead of the East Belfast Partnership talks about some of the blockages to transferring physical assets to community organisations. He points out that there are no such hang ups about capital transfers and that any asset transfers would be subject the same checks and balances.
Interestingly he points to a case study in England that he saw on a recent visit to Sheffield; a Victorian library and swimming pool complex run by the Zest Community… In Kincaid’s view community as opposed to statutory ownership allows a flexibility that allows them to respond directly not simply to wider needs, but particular needs of ethnic minorities, like the women only swimming groups…
And critically the long term husbanding of physical assets create the capacity for community organisations to raise their own independent finance, which in turn allows them to make decisions quickly. This gives them a critical capacity to take risks, not with government money, but with their own independently raised capital. The purchase of George Best’s house by Landmark East, for instance, is just such a risk.