Members of the Conservative and Labour Party voiced their support for the campaign to create a community wealth fund yesterday, which is spearheaded by the charity Local Trust.
The Community Wealth Fund Alliance is a coalition of 550 organisations from across the civil society, public and private sectors.
It is calling on the government to use dormant assets to advance “left-behind” communities, and give funds to people in these deprived communities so they can rebuild social infrastructure themselves.
At the CWF spring reception yesterday evening, Conservative MPs Danny Kruger and Claire Coutinho were joined by Lord Temporal and member of the Labour Party Ruth Lister to voice their support for the campaign. Around 100 civil society leaders were in attendance.
A public consultation that considers which good causes will benefit from up to £880m from dormant assets will be conducted this summer.
This will include “community wealth funds as an option to consider for the English portion”, minister of civil society, Nigel Huddleston, said in January.
The alliance is now campaigning in an effort to make a community wealth fund part of any future legislation.
The Community Wealth Fund is political, says Danny Kruger
Conservative MP Danny Kruger said the campaign was political yesterday.
He said to the audience of civil society leaders: “I hope you’ll forgive me if I make a particularly political point – not a left and right point but an argument that this is political. And what I want to see, and I think we’ve got the emergence of, is an important debate about what levelling up means from this perspective.”
Kruger joined the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities last September. He said that words in the levelling up white paper describe it as an “economic, social and moral mission”.
He said: “I think there is a moral cause to this agenda and to this proposal.”
Ruth Lister made a case for the fund in Parliament
Ruth Lister, who is a Lord Temporal, said she was pleased to have made the case for community wealth funds in the House of Lords. She is a member of the Labour Party.
She said: “I was very pleased to make the case for the fund and that it should be part of the consultation and I’m delighted that eventually the government saw the light.”
Two arguments persuaded her to back the campaign, she said. She agreed with its principles that there should be a gradual investment in social infrastructure over time and that change should be driven by local communities.
The Community Wealth Fund would be an important tool in drawing on the lived experience of people that live in areas of adversity, she said.
Lister continued: “I hope the consultation will have the outcome that we’re all looking for and that we will see the Community Wealth Fund going from strength to strength.”
People from deprived areas should be able to make the decisions for their communities
Claire Coutinho, the Conservative MP for East Surrey, also gave a speech voicing her support for community wealth funds to be included as part of the Dormant Assets Act.
She spoke of the people in deprived communities often not having active agency in improving their communities.
Coutinho said: “For so long they’ve had things done to them and not by them. It’s really important that decisions are not made for them, but by them.
“That’s why we in government should treat people as the legitimate decision-makers that they are in their areas and that’s what I think the Community Wealth Fund is able to do.”
‘Level up from the ground up’
The proposal is backed by a coalition 550 public, private and voluntary sector organisations and over 200 parliamentarians from different political parties. It has received support from West Midlands mayor Andy Street and Greater Manchester’s Andy Burnham.
Rayhan Haque, campaign manager at the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, said: “This summer the government will consider how to spend the next wave of dormant assets funding which will release around £900m for good causes.
“We’re delighted that as part of this process, it will explicitly consider a Community Wealth Fund, which seeks to empower the residents of deprived and ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods to create or rebuild their social infrastructure. Think community centres, youth hubs, libraries, green spaces, parks, community cafes, locally owned pubs, and recreational facilities. Basically, the stuff that helps bring life to your local area.”
He continued: “As the consultation opens, the alliance looks forward to making the case for why power and money need to be pushed down to neighbourhoods, so that they can level up from the ground up.”