We asked the main political parties about how they will unlock the power of community. Read their responses.

The General Election – which many had been expecting for some time – was finally called on 29 October.

So, Locality got in touch with the five main parties in England. We wrote to the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Brexit Party. We asked what their party would do to unlock the power of community if they were in power.

We wanted to find out more about the detail which sits behind their manifestos. Specifically, how this would support (or hinder) the fantastic work community organisations do up and down the country.

The five questions we asked were:

  1. How would your government plan to unlock the power of community and support strong and successful community organisations and their vital work?
  2. What would your government do to support community ownership and make sure all communities have access to vital community spaces?
  3. How would your government support greater localism and transfer powers, resources and decision-making to a local level?
  4. How would your government support councils to work with communities and community organisations to deliver public services?
  5. How would your government deliver future social, economic and regeneration funds to tackle inequalities and put communities in charge of local investment priorities?

Responses we’ve received so far are included verbatim below.

This page will be updated as and when others respond.

Please also refer to:

Labour Party

  • Question 1 – Unlocking Community Power & Supporting Community Organisations

Britain needs a government that does things with people instead of doing things to them. We will increase people’s opportunities to participate in the decisions that affect them and make change in their own communities.

Since 2010, the Conservatives have closed down 400 day centres, 500 public libraries, 600 youth centres and 1000 children’s centres.

Labour will create a new Right to Space to make sure communities have places to meet and use funds from dormant assets and philanthropic-giving to provide money for communities to run activities and projects in those spaces.

We will provide free, universal high-speed broadband, helping to give organisations the tools they need to succeed. We will preserve libraries for future generations and ensure that their IT equipment is kept up-to-date.

Labour will also build a properly funded, professionally staffed National Youth Service, and will guarantee every young person has access to local, high-quality youth work. We will reverse cuts to Sure Start and create a new service, Sure Start Plus, with enough centres to provide a genuinely universal service, available in all communities.

  • Question 2 – Supporting Community Ownership & Access to Community Spaces

Labour will build community wealth by giving communities the powers and resources they need to keep public spending circulating in the local community. We will list pubs – which are often the hub of a community – as Assets of Community Value so that community groups have the first chance to purchase them if they are under threat.

We will seek to create a new Public Right to Control which allows communities to bid to take control of buildings or other assets in their neighbourhood that are neglected/underused/not meeting their needs.

This Public Right to Control will include new rights for service users to change how public services work if they are failing. It will be based on principles of co-production and will involve giving service users the right to be actively involved in reshaping those services and making services directly accountable to service users. In many cases this will involve charities/campaign groups that can advocate for vulnerable service users who need help to participate.

  • Question 3 – Supporting Greater Localism & Transfer of Power, Resources & Decision-Making to Local Level

Labour will give communities a bigger say by increasing representation from local charities, community organisations and social enterprises on local enterprise partnerships, requiring them to promote inclusive growth that tackles inequality and invests in people as well as hard infrastructure. We will also increase worker representation on company boards to give members of the community a bigger say.

We will put the voices of local people at the heart of the planning process and seek to rebalance power in the planning system by giving local government greater freedom to set planning fees and by requiring the climate and environmental emergency to be factored into all planning decisions.

On the national level, we will review the roles of ministers across government to ensure that the needs of civil society are always taken into account. We will also review the Social Value Act to strengthen it and make sure public decision-making benefits local communities.

We will free the voices of civil society by repealing the Lobbying Act 2014 and overhauling the rules that govern corporate lobbying. We will introduce a lobbying register covering both in-house lobbyists and think tanks and extending to contacts made with all senior government employees, not just ministers.

  • Question 4 – Supporting Councils to Work With Communities

Labour will seek to bring local services back in-house within the next Parliament, improving quality, saving money and ensuring people who deliver vital local services are treated decently.

Under successive Tory-led governments, it is non-governmental organisations which have held the social fabric of our society together, protecting communities from even greater harm and providing precisely targeted support. As we rebuild our public services, we will support and maintain the social capital values of these organisations.

Where local areas experience a sharp rise in demand for services, we will make council funding more reactive and will work with councils to establish such a fund to meet changing circumstances.

We will also seek to ensure that planning powers allow local authorities to create more community spaces by placing requirements on developments, take over empty shops/other buildings left unoccupied for extended periods and open up more publicly owned buildings for community use.

  • Question 5 – Delivering Social, Economic & Regeneration Funds to Tackling Inequalities & Put Communities in Charge

£2 billion in dormant assets has been identified but never fully allocated. Labour will set up a new fund from dormant assets and philanthropic giving and will prioritise communities that have seen the highest levels of disinvestment.

Brexit presents a huge challenge to civil society. In the event that the UK leaves the EU, we will ensure that the level of structural and investment funding lost from the EU is matched in the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. We will also set up an advisory group with strong representation from civil society, local communities and local authorities to help allocate that funding.

Labour will also seek to increase grant funding for smaller projects to ensure that smaller charities can benefit and review of Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme to encourage more small-scale giving.

Green Party

The Green Party proposes investing £8.4 billion a year in community wind farms, with the aim of delivering 40,000 new wind turbines by 2030.

Local authorities will also be tasked with setting up community co-operatives, to maintain the new wind farms once operational. Local residents will be able to join the community co-operatives, with the price of their shares helping pay for maintenance. Profits from the wind farms will be distributed to co-op members, with a proportion given to the local authority to spend on other environmental projects in the area. This will ensure that the benefits of locally produced renewable energy stay local.

The co-ops, with local authority representation on their boards, will be the legal owners of the new turbines.

Examples of co-operative wind farms can be found here and here.

Our wider commitment to localism can be found on pages 40 to 43 of the Green Party Manifesto

Our Spring 2019 Programme for Local Government goes into further details in this area

Brexit Party

As was stated at the launch of our Contract with the People, we are simply presenting a targeted set of proposals which we hope and believe can become mainstream, we do not have aspirations, or present ourselves as, forming the next government.

We see the UK departing from the EU as the first stage in a cascade of political reform.

Our disposition is that devolution of power and democratisation should not be limited to power being restored from the EU to the nation state of the UK. Power must be devolved to localities, communities, families and individuals.

Our investment priorities, partly enabled by cancelling HS2 (which would, if anything worsen regional disparities) are, and would be driven by local need and demand.

For too long, often decades, much of the regions outside the M25 have been neglected by the Westminster based political class.

We will invest in the regions and tackle regional imbalances. Infrastructure investment in London is up to 4 times larger than the regions. The Brexit Party would change this by investing in projects identified locally. A major rebalance of our economy can create strong growth, good jobs, and have a real multiplier effect, whilst crucially, improving people’s daily lives;

The Brexit Party has sought from the beginning to align our vision for regional prosperity with the people it affects the most, so we will continually ask local communities what infrastructure projects suit them best.

Therefore:

Freeports should be developed in certain regions to encourage investment and create employment with a £1bn fund to analyze opportunities for Freeports and create tender process:

  • It is anticipated that a net 86,000 new jobs if freeports were reintroduced. Although Freeports existed prior to 2012 EU membership places restrictions on their operation.
  • 95% of UK trade goes via its ports. Creating a low to zero tax environment for produce transiting through our ports boosts job creation and geopolitical strategic importance.
  • The UK is perfectly placed geographically to benefit from being a hub for global trade and sits on the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Our coastal and fishing communities have suffered grievously in the main due to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, so we propose:

  • Recovering control of a 200 mile exclusive economic zone (or the median line)
  • One off package of investment, tax incentive to fishing industry/coastal community (£2.5bn)
  • Tax incentives for boat building and repair, processing facilities, logistics, and tourism