Sophie Page, Community Wealth Fund Alliance Campaign Manager, responds to Danny Kruger MP’s proposal for a Levelling Up Communities Fund and outlines the importance of long-term investment in ‘left behind’ communities.

Danny Kruger’s report to the Prime Minister proposing measures to ensure the community spirit we saw during lockdown is sustained couldn’t have come at a more critical time for already stretched communities now facing further crisis as a result of the pandemic.

COVID-19 shone a spotlight on communities who came together mobilising thousands of volunteers, but it also highlighted the extent to which some communities were ill prepared to deal with a national emergency. It was the neighbourhoods with social infrastructure and civic assets in the form of places and spaces to meet, community engagement and digital connectivity that had the tools and resources to provide robust responses to the pandemic; others were not so well equipped

The Community Wealth Fund Alliance, a group of 260 organisations predominantly from civil society, is calling for investment in ‘left behind’ communities. The proposal is that they should be funded long term (over 10 – 15 years), provided with appropriate support to build confidence and capacity and trusted with local decision making to ensure that the investment leaves a legacy. Community control is at the heart of what the Community Wealth Fund Alliance is about.

As Danny Kruger emphasises in his review, ‘How funds are allocated can matter as much as what is funded.’

Danny Kruger has made a very similar recommendation to government, obviously inspired by the Community Wealth Fund, for a £2bn Levelling Up Communities Fund which would invest the next wave of dormant assets in long-term, community-led transformation of ‘left-behind’ areas. This proposal is warmly welcomed by the Alliance.

Groundwork, a federation of charities based in Birmingham, is a member of the Alliance. Their CEO, Graham Duxbury has commented on the potential and power that exists in communities in the face of emergency and the importance of investing in this potential. This is to ensure the recovery creates opportunities where it’s most needed and so that local areas have the resilience to face any future challenges.

As Danny Kruger emphasises in his review, “How funds are allocated can matter as much as what is funded.” People in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods want to take responsibility for improving their quality of life for their families and communities. But they need support to grow in confidence and build their own social and civic infrastructure.

This is how we can rebuild trust and address the sense of disconnection many people feel from democratic processes; it is also how we can counter the sense that some communities have of being forgotten about.

Now is the time to listen to residents and locally based charities who know their neighbourhoods best to redress the imbalance taking place in neighbourhoods across the country. As Rita Chadha, CEO of Small Charites Coalition and Advisory Group member to the Alliance, has said:

For small charities working at the local level, the Fund can provide the catalyst and momentum for delivering and developing ever more responsive services. We neglect this opportunity at our peril.

A Fund on the scale proposed would provide the foundational investment needed to support a transformation in neighbourhoods. We hope that Danny Kruger’s central recommendation, for a Levelling Up Communities Fund, will now be accepted by government and implemented based on the Community Wealth principles and approach. A new response is needed, one that shifts the dial by trusting individuals and communities and giving them the support they need to achieve change.