When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I was proud to launch a fund to help communities buy assets that were at risk of being lost.

These could be pubs, village shops, community centres or sports grounds – any treasured local institution that made a vital contribution to the social fabric of the area.

I was inspired by the examples set by communities here in North Yorkshire. I had seen community pub ventures get off the ground at Exelby, near Bedale, at Skeeby and Hudswell, near Richmond, and at Gunnerside in Swaledale.

What struck me about these initiatives was how the very act of taking assets into community ownership made those communities stronger, enhancing pride, a sense of belonging and quality of life. Community ownership also transformed the business model for pubs that previously struggled for customers.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rishi Sunak at The Countryman’s Inn

I thought these initiatives deserved to be supported. So the Government’s £150m Community Ownership Fund was launched in 2021 running over four years up and until 2025.

Since the launch, a community pub initiative at Hunton, near Bedale, has received £230,000 from the fund to help complete the purchase and refurbishment of The Countryman’s Inn, and the community group behind a similar venture at Spennithorne, near Leyburn, has received £200,000 to do the same with the Old Horn Inn.

I have visited The Countryman’s and can say what a superb job has been done there. It is the hub of the village and community ownership has transformed its fortunes.

Plans are now well advanced for community ownership of the Farmers Arms at Muker in Swaledale and I am aware of discussions taking place at West Rounton, near Northallerton, about the Horsehoe Inn too.

But the Community Ownership Fund is not just about pubs. At Hudswell, the community’s plan to purchase and convert the redundant St Michael’s Church into a hostel for walkers and cyclists visiting Swaledale has been boosted by a £250,000 grant from the fund.

Most recently I have backed an application to the fund from Great Ayton Parish Council which hopes to secure the long-term future of the village allotments.

I have been able to support all these applications in my role as the local MP and I would be keen to hear of other community ownership initiatives in our area.

The process of applying for a grant from the Community Ownership Fund is straightforward. Groups or local councils who believe a community asset – pub, shop, leisure centre, open space etc – is at risk can complete a brief expression of interest which will quickly establish if the idea is eligible under the fund’s rules.

Help and advice is also available from the Plunkett Foundation – a charity which assists people in rural areas to set up and run successful businesses in community ownership.

More details about the Community Ownership Fund can be found at www.gov.uk and the Plunkett Foundation can be contacted at www.plunkett.co.uk