Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a £150m pot ($208m) in the upcoming budget that will allow communities to take over not just their local pubs but also sports club and theatres that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
Sunak is set to announce new measures this Wednesday to protect the economy through what he will hope is the final few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also announce investments aimed at kickstarting a recovery as restrictions begin to ease.
The Community Ownership Fund will give local people the chance to buy into endangered sports clubs, theatres, music venues and even post office buildings.
Sunak said such institutions “are the heart and soul of our local towns and villages – they’re the glue that keeps us together.
Under the fund, which will open in the summer, community groups will be able to bid for up to £250,000 matched-funding to help them to buy local assets to run as community-owned businesses. Bids are to open later in the year.
“Whilst local assets around the UK have been at risk of vanishing over recent decades, history has shown that community groups can run them successfully when given the chance, the hardest part has been raising the cash needed to buy them before it’s too late,” the UK Treasury said in a statement.
There will be no definitive list of what kinds of assets community groups can bid for though – it is up to them to set out what matters most, the government said.
The government will also provide an additional £1.2m to support the Football Association to stage the Women’s Euro football competition in 2022.
In exceptional cases, up to £1m matched-funding will be available to help establish a community-owned sports club or buy a sports ground at risk of loss from the community.
Emma McClarkin, British Beer & Pub Association CEO, welcomed the news and said it "recognises the vital role our pubs have played during the virus and should continue to play as the heart of our communities as we recover.”
The hospitality sector has been one of the worst-hit during the pandemic.
The UK hospitality industry and non-essential retail have been shuttered for months at a time, while the country gets caseloads of COVID-19 under control.
In November it was reported that almost three quarters of UK pubs and restaurants expect to shut permanently this year.
The British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and UK Hospitality said in a statement at a time that 72% of surveyed businesses "expect to become unviable and close in 2021".
"The evidence is here to see of the devastating, long-term impact the government's restrictions are having on hospitality and pub businesses," they had said in a statement.
The pub tycoon said that the industry is "on its knees" and that reopening would save jobs.
Meanwhile, the UK Treasury also said the chancellor will pump £2.8m new cash to kick-start a UK and Ireland bid to host the World Cup in 2030, with £25m new funding announced alongside this to help the game grow.
Another £1.2m will be earmarked so the Women’s Euros goes ahead in England in July 2022 following delays due to COVID-19, and £28m of cash will be announced for the UK-wide Queen’s Jubilee bank-holiday celebrations in June 2022.
The government pointed out that this support comes on top of the existing help which includes business rates relief, grants, tax deferrals and the furlough scheme.
Many businesses have asked for the end-date of these schemes to be extended as they continue to struggle with the economic fallout of the pandemic.