How government engages with and supports communities is vitally important which is why we are so pleased to see the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)’s new plan to strengthen communities and Britain overall. It’s heartening to see so many community businesses, led by local people to develop their area’s potential, mentioned as exemplars in the framework.
Working with councils is essential, which is why we are focusing some of our Empowering Places funding in Wigan through Abram Ward Community Cooperative to stimulate entrepreneurship locally. In Cornwall, community business, Par Track, has taken on a leisure centre and local library as part of the council’s devolution strategy.
In Liverpool, Homebaked, a community bakery, has now expanded to become an affordable property developer and micro-brewer, growing hops in neighbouring gardens, featured today in The Times.
And in London’s Borough of Culture this year, Waltham Forest community transport is connecting people and tackling social isolation at the same time.
The document sets out how government will eventually support more and more communities like these by:
- Holding a national conversation with communities across England:
Last year saw Julia Unwin conduct a national enquiry into the future of civil society, which involved multiple conversations across England. The new national conversation must build on this, and must be open and inclusive, listening to communities and those who have worked for years to support the community sector. Consultation fatigue is real so words must lead to deeds.
- Establishing a series of Civic Deal pilots:
We welcome Government’s desire to test a place-based partnership approach through Civic Deal pilots. Designing these so that communities are really in the lead will be vital. It’s crucial that lessons are learned from past regeneration initiatives to ensure a stronger legacy from this investment. To help with this, we’ve teamed up with IPPR North to distil some key principles for area-based funding: they must be locally-led and locally-owned, flexible and open-ended, integrated into wider economic strategies, open to experimentation and knowledge sharing, and concerned with long-term legacy from the outset.
- Publishing a Communities White Paper:
We are pleased to see that a new Government will bring forward a White Paper next year with learnings and even more actions that will help strengthen communities all over England.
Watch this space.