Last month’s election feels like it rocked the country by redrawing the post-war political map. But we all know there is more change to come. At the end of this month, Britain is due to leave the EU. Forging a new relationship with Europe outside of the EU after more than forty years will affect not just our economy but many other aspects of our country.
In these times of change, community businesses and the work you do are crucial. You are organisations that have proven to be resilient in the face of change. You need look no further than the last decade of austerity to demonstrate that. Many of you have diversified your income and rebuilt your business models in the face of significantly reduced government funding. And you’ll do the same again now and this will be critical to the communities you work for and with.
Your resilience will support local economies and we know that some of our poorest communities are likely to be hit hardest by Brexit. Community businesses have a track record of responding to need and adding new income streams to meet that need.
The fact that more than half of every pound spent by community businesses that run buildings and other spaces stays in the local area is important to strengthening local economies. Alongside others like universities and hospitals, community businesses can act as local anchors, trapping money locally by employing local people and using local suppliers. And you are already driving regeneration in many areas by addressing empty homes, bringing activity back to vacant shops on the high street or supporting those further away from the labour market into employment.
You also have a critical role to play in bringing people together. We have become politically divided as a country over Brexit. Views are polarised and the space for listening to, and understanding, each other is in short supply. But beyond Brexit, there is a lot that people agree on, as the British Social Attitudes Survey revealed.
As a country and across the generations, we believe work should pay, we should invest in the health service and are tolerant on social issues like gay marriage. Community businesses provide the spaces in communities where people can come together to rebuild understanding and trust, to plan joint action and to improve their communities. You can help us rediscover our common ground.
Perhaps most importantly, you give people, many of whom feel ignored and overlooked as the Brexit vote powerfully highlighted, a connection to power – the power to shape the future of where they live with other local people.
According to Locality’s Localism Commission that Power to Change supported, 71% of people feel that they have not much or no control over important decisions that affect their neighbourhood and local community. We face a crisis of representative democracy which urgently needs fixing. Community businesses give people a different way of feeling that their voice is heard.
Brexit is a challenge but we at Power to Change are committed to working with our sector partners to support you to continue to deliver for your communities through this historic period of change.