Lower income areas are losing out on the new rights conferred by the Localism Act.
That claim has come from a study by the Yorkshire and Humber Rural Network, which said use of the community rights to challenge, bid and build was limited and largely confined to middle class areas.
It said that as of January 2013 just three councils in the region had had requests under the ‘right to bid’, one under ‘right to build’ and none under the ‘right to challenge’.
Network rural policy officer Ed Poulter said: “The vision was of local communities seizing back power. The reality so far seems to be that groups either don’t want or don’t have the capacity to make the most of the powers.”
The report said the new rights for communities to take over buildings and services were not well understood and “those communities which are middle class…are much better placed to grasp the opportunities associated with localism.
“Government policymakers need to recognise this fact and understand that those areas which need greatest help are those that are least equipped to take this on.”
It said exercising the rights was “resource and time intensive for communities and longer term this is potentially not sustainable”.
Councils should provide clear information about them and define time limits to respond to requests, the network said.
Lack of such information led to widespread misconceptions about entitlements. The network found examples that included believing that the right to challenge could stop housing developments, and that the right to bid allowed communities first refusal if a building were for sale.