The government has announced a £1.6bn 'Stronger Towns Fund', intended to "to boost growth and give communities a greater say in their future after Brexit".
In response, Locality CEO Tony Armstrong said:

£1.6 billion

announced for 'Stronger Towns Fund'

There are communities all over the country desperate to improve their areas but starved of the resources they need. So in one sense it’s good that the government is trying to get more funding to some of these places. But this proposal is fundamentally flawed.

Everyone knows this announcement is linked to votes in Parliament on Brexit and there has been no consultation with organisations working to tackle disadvantage and support communities on the kind of funding that would truly make a difference. People can smell a rat from a long distance and this kind of backroom dealing will only increase people’s distrust of Westminster.

It’s unclear exactly how the money will be distributed, but the fact that towns will have to compete for some of the funding simply highlights the fact that this is short-term political sticking plaster rather than a long-term strategy for investing in and empowering local people where economic benefits have not been felt for decades.

And giving much of the money to Local Enterprise Partnerships is not the best way of investing in local communities. Most of these business networks are far too big and unaccountable to understand what communities really want. People may well end up with more of what they don’t need, and less of what they do.

Decisions on how the money is spent will therefore be made by Whitehall or by unaccountable business networks. Government needs to let go and put power and resources directly in the hands of our communities.

The country is divided, and we badly need to heal. But this kind of poorly thought through policy-making threatens to make things worse. We must put our trust in communities themselves to decide how to improve their areas.

Whether it’s the new Stronger Towns Fund or the replacement of EU structural funds, people at the local level should be empowered to decide how the money is spent. They know what’s best for the places where they live. The government must end the habit of a lifetime and put people in charge.

– Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive, Locality 

Locality is working alongside Co-Operatives UK, the Plunkett Foundation, Power to Change and community organisations all over the country to ensure the government’s forthcoming Shared Prosperity Fund puts communities in charge. For more information contact ed.wallis@locality.org.uk