Power to Change’s Ailbhe McNabola, Director of Policy and Communications, responds to the Queen’s Speech 2022:

“Several of the Bills announced in today’s Queen’s speech will significantly impact communities and community businesses. New powers outlined in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill enabling councils to trigger compulsory rental auctions to tackle the vacancy which blights our high streets is a good first step, but if Government is serious about addressing long-term decline it needs to go further with the introduction of a £350m High Street Buyout Fund. Part capitalised by Government, the Fund will enable communities to move at pace and secure empty high street property when they come to the market. By doing so, ownership and control over important high street buildings will be retained locally, town centres will diversify, local economies strengthened and the future of our high streets secured.

“The Bill will also introduce a new ‘neighbourhood share’, with 25% of the Infrastructure Levy paid by developers passed to communities. This is a step in the right direction when it comes to financing community power. However, with this only available to parish councils and neighbourhood forums both of which are more likely to be found in affluent areas. We believe this could be expanded to other forms of neighbourhood institution such as the new community covenants proposed in the Levelling Up White Paper.

“We’ll also be monitoring, and engaging with, the passage of the second Economic Crime Bill to ensure the new register of overseas interests is publicly available and usable by communities aiming to get a picture of ownership on their high street. Town centres are the beating heart of the community, and their fate shouldn’t be in the hands of those with little stake in their future.

“With a general election roughly two years away, Government needs to start delivering on its domestic manifesto commitments. We stand ready to work with Government and provide evidence and expertise on the vital role communities should have in helping deliver the Levelling Up agenda.”