For the government to truly support levelling up through this spending review it must invest in communities.

As we emerge from the crisis of the last 18 months, the Spending Review (SR) will set the direction and spending priorities for the government in the coming years. Over the past few months, government departments and other organisations have been developing their submissions to the Treasury and setting out their asks for the SR.

As always, Locality has produced a submission to the Treasury. In it we set out proposals which would support the government’s ambitions to level up the country and tackle inequalities which they have shown a commitment to in the creation of the Department for Levelling Up. As we look beyond the pandemic, we believe that levelling up must begin with a community-powered economic and social recovery underpinned by greater community collaboration in the design and delivery of public services.

Read our spending review submission here: https://locality.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Locality-Spending-Review-2021-submission_SUMMARY_FINAL.pdf 

[The government] must unlock community power and social action by embracing localism and transferring power and resources to local places

Spending Review vs. Budget – what are they?

A spending review sets out the government’s plans for how much money each of the government departments will be able to spend over a set period of time. This October, for the first time in several years the government spending review will cover two years instead of just one. This gives more certainty to departments and those who rely on government finance for the years ahead.

A budget is a wider statement about the finances of the country, it includes things like proposals around taxes and sets out the plan for how the government is going to ensure they have the money that they need for their spending plans.

What are we calling for?

In September, the Chancellor announced a series of priorities for the spending review. Two of these, which our submission focuses on in particular, are:

  • Levelling up across the UK to increase and spread opportunity, unleashing the potential of places, and working closely with local leaders
  • Ensuring strong and innovative public services across the country

We believe that there are opportunities in this Spending Review to support community power to flourish as we recover from the pandemic. To realise the ambitions stated above to level up the country, to tackle regional inequalities and to support so-called “left behind” neighbourhoods, government cannot solely rely on centralised power in Whitehall. Instead, it must unlock community power and social action by embracing localism and transferring power and resources to local places. Supported by the forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper, this agenda can provide a basis for this by putting communities in charge of the funds that will develop their local economies; by strengthening neighbourhood governance, and by helping communities to collaborate on – not compete for – public services that meet their needs and localise social value.

Put communities in charge of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to drive a community-powered economic recovery

These are the opportunities which we see for the government at this spending review:

  • Capitalise communities through an expanded Community Ownership Fund. Building on the £150m Community Ownership Fund, we are proposing bolstering the scale and scope of this fund to create a transformational £1bn four-year investment plan, leveraging funding from Dormant Assets, social investors, and funders. This would turbocharge community ownership of land and buildings and help our neighbourhoods level up.
  • Put communities in charge of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to drive a community-powered economic recovery. Ensure funding is targeted to the people and places that need it the most and ringfence at least a quarter of the funding directly for local areas to invest in their own priorities for the economy.
  • Protect, strengthen, and grow community organisations through a £300m Neighbourhood Recovery Fund. Supporting the most disadvantaged areas to build social and economic capital to drive recovery and long-term prosperity, with revenue funding for emerging community groups as well as established organisations.
  • Use the levelling up agenda as an opportunity to strengthen neighbourhood governance. Following on from the Levelling Up White Paper, introduce a pilot programme to support 200 neighbourhood forums and parish councils to take on new powers and shape what happens in their area.
  • Renew the Neighbourhood Planning support programme. To continue the high-quality advice, grants, and technical support available to support neighbourhood planning groups; expand and diversify involvement in neighbourhood planning, and support digitalisation.
  • Reinstate the Community Housing Fund. This should include £43.5m of revenue funding and £7.5m of capital funding for innovative forms of tenure that, unlike most community-led homes, are not eligible for funding via the current Affordable Homes Programme.
  • Support for community collaboration in public services. Strengthen the roots of community collaboration in public services through a £10m national programme supporting 100 places, supported by a long-term, sustainable funding model for local government. This programme would particularly focus on supporting service transformation through greater collaboration between local government, health sectors, and communities

Alongside our own Spending Review submission, we have also joined with partners in the sector to put forward a series of recommendations ahead of 27th October. This sector submission, supported by more than 20 charity bodies, sets out how charities and community organisations can:

  • Effectively contribute to the government’s Levelling Up Agenda
  • Help to Build Back Better in the wake of the pandemic
  • Play a role in meeting future challenges such as in social care and the transition to Net Zero.

You can read the full sector spending review submission here:  https://www.cfg.org.uk/userfiles/Spending%20Review%20and%20Budget%202021.pdf