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Blears urges asset transfer

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Hazel Blears has called for a “major expansion” of asset transfer from councils to community ownership.

In a speech to the Social Market Foundation on reviving politics yesterday, the communities secretary said that the transfer of assets, like swimming pools, provided a potentially powerful mechanism for reinvigorating local democracy.

She said: “What asset transfer does is to create a new cadre of active citizens, owning, directing and running a service. It creates new co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises. And it should also create a facility or service which is responsive to local need, reflects local ambitions, and which generates loyalty from the local community. “

Blears: 'Unleash energy of local people'

“What I want to see happen next is a major expansion of asset transfer in order to unleash the creativity and energy of local people. And we need especially to do it in ways which create income over the medium term, for example rents from land owned by Community Land Trusts, so that the projects are not simply propped up by state subsidy.”

The government has been encouraging councils to hand over under-used and perhaps derelict community assets in the wake of last year’s Quirk review.
And she rejected arguments that people were too apathetic to get involved in running community assets.

She also said that giving ordinary people greater opportunities to seek redress from their local authorities would be outlined in the upcoming community empowerment white paper, which is expected to be published in the summer.

Ms Blears said community empowerment should be at ‘the heart of the political battle” over the next few months.

She also proposed that the Cabinet should meet outside of London and ministers should go back to the shop floor to encourage more engagement with the political process.

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