A community benefit society is a unique type of co-operative society that enables local people to invest in charitable projects and improve the area they live in.  Today the Birkenhead and Tranmere Community Benefit Society was formally registered by the Financial Conduct Authority, which is responsible for regulating community benefit societies.

For some time the Birkenhead & Tranmere Neighbourhood Planning Forum and the Friends of Hamilton Square Conservation Area have been working to establish a community benefit society, which would allow local people to take forward development proposals and to raise money to invest in charitable activities across the Birkenhead & Tranmere Ward, including heritage-led projects within the Ward’s two conservation areas (Hamilton Square and Clifton Park).

The Financial Conduct Authority confirmed today (30 January 2018) the formal registration of the Birkenhead and Tranmere Community Benefit Society Limited (BATCOM for short).  The registration papers for the society, including the society’s rules may be read here.  The society has two broad objects.  The first is the delivery of community-led housing and the second is the advancement of citizenship and community development through urban regeneration, which includes neighbourhood planning.

To make the most of this vehicle members are needed who are willing to invest in the society and contribute to its work by coming forward with ideas and helping to realise projects of a charitable nature across the Ward.

For example, up to £10,000.00 is available for a viability assessment to investigate the potential to buy and renovate 70a Argyle Street, which is a building identified early on by the Friends of Hamilton Square Conservation Area as one that needs to be saved from dereliction and brought back into economic use.  However, in order to qualify for this funding, a minimum level of support from local people for the society must be demonstrated.  So, the first task for the founder members is to recruit at least 10 more members.  Information about the administration of membership requests are found from clause 13 of the society’s rules.

Potential members would need to invest a minimum amount in the society to qualify for membership.  The founder members of the society have not yet decided how much this should be but any money paid into the society would accrue interest for the member and, with certain restrictions to ensure that the company can continue to trade,  a member may withdraw the investment or part of it at any time, along with the interest accrued.

This is one of the unique characteristics of a community benefit society.  It allows members to invest, earn interest on a low risk basis and to withdraw their money if necessary.  The society may then borrow against these funds (up to a maximum of £10,000,000) and/or use it to provide private capital match against public funds.

The society now exists but, to make it easier to work with registered charities, the founder members have decided to also register it as an exempt charity with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.  The cost of doing this is £350 plus VAT.  The founder members of the society have paid out of their own pockets for the costs involved in getting to this point.  If anyone seeing this post would like to contribute towards meeting these additional registration costs, they should e-mail the author of this post.

Source:  Philip Barton, Founder Member, Birkenhead and Tranmere Community Benefit Society Limited, 30 January 2018