Levelling Up White Paper: Power to Change responds

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Power to Change responds to the publication of the Government's Levelling Up White Paper.
2 Feb, 2022
Ailbhe McNabola, Director of Policy and Communications at Power to Change, said:

Community power and community ownership

“At Power to Change, we’ve been calling for a radical reimagining of who can exercise power in this country and it’s promising to see government starting to devolve funding and decision making out of Whitehall. But to limit devolution to metro and county mayor level is a missed opportunity. For levelling up to succeed, it must go further and empower people at a neighbourhood level. Local people are best placed to understand and deliver against the needs of their communities. The review of neighbourhood governance and commitment to pilot new models for community partnership are therefore welcome announcements. This includes the intention to trial Community Covenants which, once established, could be the mechanism by which further power and funding is devolved to the neighbourhood level, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Evidence has shown that centralised, top down approaches to regeneration have had little lasting impact on left behind places compared with those that have been driven from the grassroots. We must heed the warnings of the past, without doing so levelling up risks falling short of its ambitions.

“There are several promising signs in that the government is listening to local communities and their demands for greater access and ownership of places that matter to them. We welcome the government’s commitment to bring forward a Strategy for Community Spaces and Relationships, and to ‘enhance’ the Community Ownership Fund, which is not delivering for all communities, particularly those in areas of higher deprivation. We also welcome the opportunity to bring our evidence and expertise to bear through a broader consultation on how government can go further to support community ownership. We’ve long called for a Community Right to Buy to turbocharge community ownership.”

Transport / regeneration

“Whilst investment in physical infrastructure such as improved transport links is welcome, with its commitment to develop a new strategy for community spaces and relationships I’m delighted to see government recognising the value of social infrastructure in building social capital and enabling all neighbourhoods to thrive. It is in these spaces that strong, resilient and diverse communities are built and research has shown that investment in these types of spaces, has a greater and longer lasting impact on people’s everyday lives compared to shiny new infrastructure designed to attract outside investment. We stand ready to support through our bank of research in this area.”

Towns funding / high streets

“Today’s announcement of funding for town centres is good news, as is the commitment to empower local authorities to tackle vacancy on the high street. However what high streets really need to thrive is greater community involvement and more ownership of high street buildings. So it’s even better to see the government’s commitment to make it easier for local people and community organisations to come together to set local priorities for their high streets. In particular, we welcome the exploration of Community Improvement Districts, as announced in the government response to Danny Kruger’s review, a model Power to Change is already piloting alongside the Mayor of London in Kilburn and Wood Green.

“While there are positive signs for left behind communities, detail on how levelling up will be delivered is still lacking. Government should now work with organisations with experience of delivering at a local level to shape these plans if they hope to meet their targets.”