Power to Change announces £12m emergency fund for England’s community businesses

Community-owned libraries, pubs and cafes in England will be able to access up to £12m in grants to help them survive the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to funding announced yesterday.

Power to Change, an independent trust set up in 2015 with an endowment of £150m from the The National Lottery Community Fund, hopes to provide both immediate and medium-term help for businesses benefiting the local community which have seen their trading income drop due to the coronavirus crisis.



The package includes £7m in ‘rescue funding’, with grants of up to £25,000 to contribute towards trading income losses incurred between April and June 2020. These grants are available to the trust’s approximately 1,000 current and previous grantees, and to around 1,000 more members of Co-operatives UK, Locality and the Plunkett Foundation.

'Our aim now is to ensure that community businesses can continue their vital work despite the impact of lost trading due to coronavirus'

There is a further £5m in grant funding expected to be released later this year, ‘based on learning’ from the first pot, to help community businesses recover and rebuild.

Power to Change, which had distributed around £60m to community businesses as of last September, defines these as locally-rooted, trading for the benefit of and accountable to the local community, and with a broad community impact. There are around 9,000 such businesses in England, according to research by the trust

Of these, Power to Change estimates that 58% have had to stop their primary operations completely, following government guidance, because they are venues such as community hubs, retail premises (pubs and cafes) or arts or culture businesses (such as libraries or leisure centres).


Leading on community response

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO of Power to Change, said the current crisis underlined the value of community businesses. “From providing essential supplies and services to supporting the vulnerable and isolated, there have been countless stories of community businesses leading the way in the community response to Covid-19.”

These include Homebaked, a community land trust and co-operative bakery in Liverpool, which has set up a delivery service and is working with local groups to get food and care to the vulnerable. Nudge, a community business that converts derelict buildings in Plymouth, has created a WiFi net between the buildings so it can provide free internet access to the community. And The Anglers Rest, a community pub and post office in the Peak District, has maintained its key services during the crisis so that residents can continue to collect pension payments, pay essential bills and withdraw cash for food supplies.

Alakeson said: “Our aim now is to ensure that community businesses can continue their vital work despite the impact of lost trading due to coronavirus.” 

This emergency support had been designed in close collaboration with Power to Change’s partners Cooperatives UK, Locality, and the Plunkett Foundation, she said, taking on board insights and advice from across the sector. 

“We will continually review the short- and medium-term needs of community businesses as we support them throughout this crisis and beyond,” said Alakeson.

The latest available accounts of Power to Change, for 2018, showed £91.8m of the trust’s initial endowment remaining. 

Grants will be open for applications from the week of 11 May. All new applications to other Power to Change funding programmes have been paused, although those already awarded a grant will receive it as planned.

Header image: Homebaked, a community land trust and co-operative bakery in Liverpool which has set up a new takeaway delivery service during lockdown and is working with local groups to get food and care to the vulnerable.

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