The Government’s announcement this week welcomes the creation of a new Community Wealth Fund from an expanded Dormant Assets Scheme to provide long-term investment in rebuilding some of England’s most disadvantaged districts. The announcement follows his four-year campaign by local governments, civil society funders, politicians from each party and community groups to tackle marginalized, deprived and social infrastructure to sustain livelihoods across the country. Bringing new hope to communities struggling with the loss of .
A study conducted for the Local Trust in 2020 found that 225 such areas in England could be described in this way. These have suffered most from the decline of traditional industries and the disappearance of social institutions such as pubs, cafes and community centers that support local civic life, define community identity and foster local pride and identity. Region.
People living in these regions generally experience worse outcomes on a range of key indicators, from health and well-being to employment and educational attainment. Nevertheless, for decades they have missed their fair share of help and assistance. These neighborhoods received 70% less charitable grants per capita than other equally disadvantaged neighborhoods.
That’s why the announcement of the government’s commitment to create community wealth funds for disadvantaged areas like these is a positive step. As consultations are expected over the next few months on how such funds will work, it is important that their design follows the key principles set out during the Community Wealth Fund Alliance’s campaign. becomes very important. These new funds. They should target the most disadvantaged or “left behind” areas. Be community driven, based on decisions made by locals about how money is spent. With appropriate support for trust and capacity building of local people. provided over the long term.
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These principles are informed by evidence that they have worked in past regeneration initiatives. For example, a study conducted by the University of Cambridge for the Local Trust found that key ingredients for successful rehabilitation of disadvantaged communities included long-term funding for at least 10 years and community investment built into all stages of design and delivery. was found to involve the involvement of
Past funding for communities has too often been short-term. Consultants “help” communities that disappear when funding ends, parachuting in to utilize the experience and skills gained in the community rather than being rooted in it. These new community her wealth funds need to be able to provide a long-term legacy of sustainable change.
The bottom line is that people living in the most disadvantaged and “left behind” neighborhoods know best what their neighborhood needs, better than the Mandarins of Whitehall or the town council officials. However, they tend to lack the necessary social infrastructure (community spaces and places, community groups) to effectively organize and take responsibility for transforming their communities. . It is therefore welcome that the government envisages that the Community Wealth Fund will “empower local residents to make decisions about how their money is spent.” The key to the success of the Community Wealth Fund is how it, through its establishment, supports and creates strong local community-led institutions that can advocate and serve the region in the long term.
The principle we believe should guide the design of the Community Wealth Fund is The Local Trust’s Big Local, which has provided £1.2 million in cash each to 150 disadvantaged communities across England since 2012. It is also based on lessons learned from the delivery of the program. Many of those communities have missed a fair distribution of funds in the past. Across the country, Big Local has demonstrated how powerful local-led decision-making can transform the outlook for communities and their people.
For example, in Whitley Bay, local residents worked with the local council and the Union of Mayors authorities to build a new hub in the heart of the community. At Wolverhampton’s Scotland and Bushbury Hill estates, local residents have taken the lead in saving their local community centers and turning them into centers of action to support children and families across the region. In Poole, Dorset, a new multi-purpose center funded and run by local residents provides access to services previously unavailable in the area. And in Bristol North West, a program supported by Big Local will improve access to affordable housing, provide training courses and apprenticeships to the unemployed, and take community-led pioneering action on climate change. It is
These projects were successful because they were part of a community-driven strategy to regenerate and improve their communities. It represents the type of approach Community Wealth Funds need to make a real difference to underfunded and “left behind” communities. Today’s announcement is a promising start. The challenge now is to ensure that the principles underpinning the new fund are designed to unlock the potential of local residents and truly uplift marginalized areas across the country.
Matt Leach CEO of Local Trust