21 Sep 2020

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has advised West Berkshire Council on the UK's first Community Municipal Investment (CMI) – a bond issued by a local authority directly to the public.

The CMI allows residents and community groups to invest directly with the Council to fund green projects. Investments can be as little as £5 and investors will earn a return of 1.2% over a five year term, with the capital returned in instalments across the investment term.

The scheme is attractive to bondholders because it facilitates their investment in local green projects in a way that involves only a small degree of investment risk, together with the potential to earn a return – which is why the Council is already seeing strong demand for the bonds.

The money raised will be used to fund the installation of solar panels on Council owned buildings including at Greenham Common and local schools. These projects are part of West Berkshire Council's ambitious plans to become carbon neutral by 2030.

The WBD team advising West Berkshire Council was led by partners John Connor and Iain Greenshields, and solicitor Jake Unsworth.

Iain Greenshields commented: 

"This is the first CMI of its kind and it's brilliant to see that the project is already a success with both the Council and residents reaping the rewards. We're already working with other local authorities looking to set up similar schemes.

"It has been a pleasure working with the legal team at West Berkshire Council on this truly original and cutting-edge initiative. There were complex challenges associated with the project, mainly because nothing like this has ever been done before, but these were overcome with a combination of confidence, pragmatism and innovative thinking."

Shiraz Sheikh, Legal Services Manager at West Berkshire Council, added: 

"We're extremely grateful for the expertise and commitment of the WBD team. John, Iain and Jake provided invaluable advice, steering us through a complicated process, to help us launch the UK's first Community Municipal Investment. We have worked with WBD for many years and their insight provided the Council with real value on this transaction. The Council is looking forward to realising investment following the launch."

WBD works closely with UK Local and Central Government authorities and other organisations in the wider public and third sector. The firm advises the UK Government’s Crown Commercial Service, providing a full-service of legal expertise across a range of disciplines. It is also appointed as a Tier 1 firm advising Central Government Departments, Agencies and Arms’ Length Bodies.

Ranking in the UK's top 20 law firms, WBD advises over 40 FTSE 350 companies, including many of the largest businesses in the country, government organisations and wealthy individuals. The firm advises clients across eleven key sectors including: energy and natural resources; financial institutions; healthcare; insurance; manufacturing; real estate; retail and consumer; transport, logistics and infrastructure; pharmaceuticals and life sciences; technology; and private wealth.