The number of local groups seeking funding and advice rose sharply last year, according to a charity which supports rural community groups.
The Plunkett Foundation said that demand for its advice and financial services rose by over 50% during 2020, as communities looked to take over local businesses and assets struggling because of the coronavirus crisis.
The Foundation’s 2020 Impact Report, published yesterday, said that the charity had provided specialist advice to twice as many groups compared with 2019.
Millions raised in community shares
The report showed a 53% increase in demand from community groups looking for support, advice and funding.
The number of groups supported by Plunkett Foundation advisers in 2020 rose by 104% compared to the previous year, to 308.
The charity estimated that 500,000 people benefited from the groups it supported during 2020, including 25,000 vulnerable or isolated people.
It also said that £4m was raised in 2020 through community shares, which helped save pubs which would otherwise have been derelict, and create local shops.
The Foundation hailed the contribution community businesses made to helping out during the pandemic, with community pubs providing free hot meals and volunteers visiting people living on their own.
James Alcock, chief executive at the Plunkett Foundation, said: “Our Impact Report demonstrates how important community businesses are to economic recovery post Covid-19 and to the wider wellbeing and prosperity of communities across the UK.
“For towns and villages to continue to thrive in the long term we need to ensure that government support reaches those groups that are sustainable and have the greatest impact in supporting all members of their communities.”
Research published earlier this month by the Lottery-backed foundation Power to Change said that the number of community businesses in England had doubled in the last six years to 11,000.