We’re often approached by individuals who have great ideas about setting up projects or initiatives that benefit their communities. The most common stumbling block is that they don’t have wider support or any knowledge as to what’s involved in setting up an organisation. In some cases, we suggest that they do a mapping exercise of what’s already in existence in their locality in terms of voluntary and community groups, why re-invent the wheel if you they can join forces with something already in existence without the overarching burden of management and administration responsibilities. Another stumbling block can be choosing the right structure from the start – groups often choose structures based on fulfilling criteria for funding applications, tax reliefs, rate relief, potential liabilities, they often don’t consider long term management and regulatory requirements involved with certain structures. the best advice is – really do your research on the advantages and disadvantages of the structures you’re considering, often the guidance in this area can be quite onerous and overcomplicated, Community Matter’s guidance and advice in this area uses plain, practical language.
In terms of other legal issues / red tape It really all depends on a number of variables e.g. their activities, geographical location etc. For example Local Authorities across the UK take different approaches to ‘Community Asset Transfer’. I’ve worked on asset transfer cases where the Local Authority takes a positive approach offering long term leases (25yr+) on peppercorn rents to community associations. I’ve worked with other Local Authorities where they’ve expected full business planning, an incorporated structure, commercial rents with short terms leases. Red tape and legal issues are usually dependent on the individual circumstances involved. Community groups can struggle with legal issues: Lease negotiation, occupation . management of buildings, employment law, contract law to name a few example areas. Community Matters offers free legal advice to its members on matters such as lease checks. We also work with a law firm Decherts to provide free legal advice, we make referrals on behalf of community groups (placing the case is subject to availability / expertise within the law firm). The partnership service we have with the law firm is open to members and non members. Community Groups can also apply online directly to Law Works for free legal advice at http://www.lawworks.org.uk