A community-powered vision for a new government

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The next government must harness the power and potential in our communities to build a stronger economy and fairer society.
18 Jun, 2024
Jessica Craig

Jessica Craig

Policy Officer

The general election campaign is now well underway. Last week, we saw the major parties launch their manifestos and set out their offer to the country. Each is attempting to convince the public they have the answers to our biggest national challenges.

As they set out their stalls, politicians shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of local communities in achieving these policy goals. The experience of recent years has shown that in the face of national challenges, communities come together to look out for each other.

It’s clear that communities want this role to be recognised. Research from More in Common and the UCL Policy Lab has found that Britons do not feel they get the respect they deserve. They want a ‘respect reset’ from their political leaders and national institutions. This means people want a politics that respects their everyday contributions and enables them to achieve their full potential. A new government must make communities central players in their plans to transform the country.

Community businesses have a key role to play in this. They ensure communities have the power to change what matters to them. They help build better places and fairer local economies. They also strengthen the social bonds that make communities resilient through tough times. A community-powered vision for government will mean giving communities the right powers, resources and support to thrive. At Power to Change, we know what it will take to make this possible.

Give power back to communities

While there’s cross-party consensus that too much power lies in Whitehall, the next government needs to devolve power beyond the town hall and respect the wisdom of local people. Communities know best what they want and need in their area. Decisions should be made by the people that live there.

Adopting the Community Power Act would lay the groundwork for the next government to empower communities. It would ensure that communities have a say in shaping the spaces, services and investment in their local area. It would also ensure communities can work alongside local authorities and other public bodies to have real decision-making power.

The next government should also act quickly to introduce a Community Wealth Fund from dormant assets. This will help the most disadvantaged communities to build capacity to identify and act on local priorities.

Unlock finance for enterprising community businesses

Community businesses are key local employers who reinvest their profits to support local people. Almost half of community businesses operate in the 30 per cent most disadvantaged areas. This means every place can make a contribution and help create growth from the bottom up. To achieve this, community businesses need access to a range of flexible and affordable forms of finance to start up and grow.

The next government must unlock investment in community business. They should introduce a successor to Social Investment Tax Relief and using public spend to leverage more social and private investment in community businesses. And, as we move through the energy transition, the next government must also ensure community businesses can access the money and support needed to generate renewable energy.

Help communities take back the high street

The state of our high streets is a visible marker of decline. But it can also be a clear sign of when things are getting better. Communities are remaking their high streets to be fit for the future. They are restoring neglected spaces and diversifying the local offer to make our high streets better places to work, live and visit.

Communities know how to save the high street. But they need a say and a stake in their local high street to make this possible. The next government should introduce a Community Right to Buy. This would give communities real power to buy the assets that matter to them so they can use them for the benefit of their community.

New powers should be accompanied by appropriate resource. Expanded funding and support for community ownership should include specific measures to increase community ownership on the high street. That is what a British High Street Investment Vehicle could do.

Our future economy relies on communities

Transforming a country doesn’t happen solely in Westminster. To build a stronger economy and fairer society for everyone, the next government must empower communities to change things at the local level. Our ideas to back community business will help them do just that.