Power to Change launch annual online survey and want to hear from rural community businesses.

Power to Change recently launched their annual online survey of the community business market – we would like to invite you to take part. The survey will help Power to Change to understand how it can best support and advocate for community businesses. This year the survey has a specific focus on community climate action, marginalised groups’ involvement and engagement and the contribution of community businesses to regeneration. It should take less than 20 minutes to complete.

There is a £900 cash incentive for each of five community businesses who take part. These will be allocated at random.

Power to Change are keen to receive your response even if your community business has stopped operating in the last year or even if you are unsure that you are a community business. The findings will primarily inform a public report about the experiences of community businesses.

The survey includes questions about income and staff and volunteer numbers – it would be helpful if a senior staff member completes it to ensure answers are as accurate as possible. Once you start the survey the responses you enter will be saved, so you can check information and return at a later date.

To access the survey, please click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your internet browser:

The survey will close at the end of July

For more information about the survey you can:

Small-scale affordable housing development makes big difference to rural community

Short film released today shows how the community of Roxwell in Essex worked with partners to build affordable homes for people with a connection to the local area

Abi and her partner Gabriel moved no less than five times in four years before they got lucky and secured an affordable rented property in Glebe Meadow; a small-scale, community-led development championed by Roxwell Parish Council and built by housing association, English Rural.

Having a place to call home, where they enjoy the security of a 25-year tenancy agreement and rent capped at less than 80% of market rates has enabled them to settle in the village where Abi grew up and start a family.

Commenting on their new home, Abi said, “It’s so nice to be back in Roxwell because ultimately, it’s home. And financially, it’s put us in a much more secure position as before we were paying about £500 more on private rent”.

Abi and Gabriel’s story is featured as part of a short film prepared by our national network, Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), which is calling for more community-led solutions to the housing crisis in rural areas. Launched as part of Rural Housing Week, the charity hopes the example of what Roxwell has achieved will inspire other rural communities to investigate, plan and build new homes that meet local needs.

ACRE has a network of 38 local charities in every rural county of England, almost all of whom provide independent facilitation for groups wanting to develop affordable housing schemes locally.

Laura Atkinson is a Rural Housing Enabler with the Rural Community Council of Essex (RCCE). She played an instrumental role helping Roxwell Parish Council engage residents to identify local needs and brokering relationships with planners and the housing association which went on to develop the scheme at Glebe Meadow.

Speaking on film, Laura said, “It’s vital there are homes that are affordable to everyone in rural areas. Land values and house prices remain incredibly high, especially at the moment, post-Covid. And the gap between rural property prices and local wages continues to widen. Coupled with higher costs of living and rising energy prices, this leaves many unable to remain where they grew up or have support networks. I would really encourage any community looking to assess their affordable housing need to get in touch. We can help.”

According to recent government statistics*, the most affordable homes in rural areas cost 9.6 times earnings compared to 8 times earnings in urban areas, excluding London. In Chelmsford District, of which Roxwell is part, residents can expect to pay nearly 12 times their earnings for the most affordable homes.

Glebe Meadow is regarded as a success story by English Rural who built the new homes which includes five dwellings at affordable rent, plus two discounted market sale properties, all of which are now occupied by people with a connection to the local area.

Alison Thompson, Deputy Development Director at English Rural said: “We are delighted to have completed this much-needed scheme in Essex. Affordable rural developments provide a secure and safe place for local people to live, in the communities they serve and support. The affordable homes at Glebe Meadow will play an important role in safeguarding a vibrant, active, and working village that includes a mixture of age groups and income earners.”

In the past, CCB has run a very successful Rural Affordable Housing project which resulted in excess of 40 housing need surveys being completed and the development of 4 rural exception sites being developed developments, 41 homes have been built specifically to give local people access to affordable homes. Due to funding constraints, we no longer can run this project in the same way but we remain committed to helping rural communities in Berkshire to provide affordable housing that meets a range of local needs. We long to run a well-attended training session on better providing community-led housing options and affordable homes for people living or working in Berkshire. If you are interested in this and would like to provide us with some feedback on training that YOU would find useful we’d love to hear from you. Please contact Tim.Parry@ccberks.org.uk

Help us continue our work by becoming a member!

Membership is open to anyone who share our aims and would like to further the work of our charity.

The cost of membership for 2022 is £42 for parish/town councils and voluntary or community organisations or £20 for individuals. In order to join our service you can click here to complete the online form and then arrange payment; https://ccberks.wufoo.com/forms/sc2hujw0st0kk9/

Becoming a member of CCB is an effective and rewarding route to building connections, accessing information, training and support, and helping to ensure communities like yours are strong, successful and well represented.

As we face increasing demands on our resources, our members support helps us to continue to deliver and develop projects that help people and groups that need us most in your community.

Our members are really important to us and are always at the core of what we do and why we do it. Benefits to members are outlined below:

Benefits of Membership

  • Free or discounted training opportunities at our range of courses that ultimately all focus on strengthening communities.
  • An invitation to attend focus groups and have an important say in our future priorities and work.
  • The opportunity to become a CCB Trustee and to nominate and elect members to our Board.
  • An invitation to attend our annual training workshop and Annual General Meeting (1 vote per membership)
  • Monthly e-bulletins and updates on our work including services, funding opportunities, events and training workshops that may be of benefit to you, your colleagues and community.
  • The opportunity to market your community events, news or local facilities via our e-bulletin and website.
  • Prompt access to the CCB team who will be available to discuss issues affecting your community.

Any questions? Get in contact with us at admin@ccberks.org.uk

Energy Advice by Helen Dean

We are aware that more and more families are struggling financially. Citizens Advice are also saying that almost half of the people they help are in a negative budget – they have more essential spending going out than coming in.

The government have recently announced measures to help with the cost of living – see their factsheet – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cost-of-living-support/cost-of-living-support-factsheet-26-may-2022

Frontline workers in Berkshire can refer low-income families they support for telephone advice on reducing their bills, and help with utility debt by emailing Helen on helen.dean@ccberks.org.uk

If you run a group for families with good numbers of low-income families attending, please contact Helen to arrange an advice session at your group.

Small rural charities say they are having increasing problems using banking services .

ACRE’s Policy Adviser, Jeremy Leggett blogs on emerging findings from a survey of community organisations who claim it is becoming even more difficult to manage their bank accounts as services move online

For the last few months, ACRE Network members, of which CCB is one, have been receiving cries for help from rural community organisations over banking services. The ‘presenting symptoms’ have been further closures of rural bank branches, sudden imposition of charges, difficulties changing signatories and problems resulting from trying to move to online banking.

It is often the case that rural areas experience the downside of economic and consumer trends before urban areas due to their smaller populations and reduced incentive for the market to offer choice. They can also be slower to receive the benefits of change for the same reason. Rural areas have recent experience of this in the commercially led roll-out of both broadband and mobile phone networks. However, in the case of access to banking services, rural community organisations have not been alone; many urban small charities are voicing similar concerns. To read the rest of this article click here.