A new report, Power Partnerships, released today (Thursday 26th September 2019) by charity Locality, in association with Local Trust and Power to Change, reveals how to strengthen localism to harness community power and deliver the democratic renewal we urgently need as a country.

The report publishes the results of a year-long project working across local authorities in Cornwall, Stevenage, Southwark and Wigan. It demonstrates how councils are devolving power, strengthening local capacity, and working with communities and parish and town councils as equal partners in decision-making. It also outlines the barriers in place at a local level that need to be addressed and showcases how resident-led partnerships and community organisations are working with local authorities to create change in their areas.

The year-long study revealed that internal culture change within councils is key to ensuring that an ambitious vision for localism and community power is backed up in practice. Alongside strategic and political leadership, the report highlights the need for embedding change through staff engagement to shift cultures in practice and disrupt siloed working. Increasing community participation and power should be a core component of how all council services and decision-making processes are designed and evaluated.

The report also highlights the powerful results that arise from council and community partnerships, where residents and local areas are supported and provided with the resources and powers to lead local change. This includes, for example, unlocking local economic development by supporting community businesses, or enabling local assets and services to thrive through community ownership.

The charity is also calling for action from national government to take the Localism Act further with new powers for communities to save local spaces, shape local services and local economic plans. To unlock long-term capacity in our communities, the report also calls for the next wave of dormant assets, estimated to be worth £2bn to be used to create a Community Wealth Fund to invest in our social and civic infrastructure in our most deprived neighbourhoods.

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality said:

“We are living in a period of unprecedented political upheaval. Brexit remains unresolved and a snap general election is likely. While division seemingly characterises our national politics, at a local level there are huge opportunities for a new power settlement. Investing in localism and putting neighbourhoods in the lead to shape local priorities, economic opportunities and local services can help deliver the democratic renewal we urgently need as a country.

This report showcases the huge potential for resetting the power balance between citizen and state at a local level. Yet to do this effectively, we also need national government to get behind a radical devolution settlement, providing fiscal powers and financial certainty for stretched local authorities. And we need to tap into new funding opportunities – such as the next wave of dormant assets – to capitalise our communities directly and strengthen long-term neighbourhood capacity.”

Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change said:

“Communities need to be front and centre of decisions that affect them and be given the autonomy they deserve to improve their own neighbourhoods. We want to see more concerted action by national and local policy makers to reinvigorate localism and give people greater control over what goes on in their neighbourhoods. The recommendations in this report give a clear checklist for local authorities to follow and could make a real difference in empowering communities.”

Matt Leach, Chief Executive of Local Trust said:

“As political institutions struggle to build bridges across an increasingly divided nation and the public sector faces increasing challenges in responding to the needs of a rapidly changing society, we desperately need to find new ways to make decisions and deliver services.

This report holds out the vision of reinvented and re-energised localism, based around the energy, imagination and resourcefulness of local people. The Big Local programme provides compelling evidence of that working in practice across the country. This report captures experience in those areas and more widely, helping map out an important new manifesto for change.”

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For additional information or to request interviews please contact:

Tara Anderson, Director of Engagement, 07515 062 846 tara.anderson@locality.org.uk

Notes to editors

About Locality

Locality is the leading membership charity that exists to unlock the power in local communities to build a fairer society. Locality supports community organisations to be strong and successful through hands-on advice, peer-learning and resources, and uses evidence from members to influence government and funders. Locality are hundreds of community organisations, at the heart of communities, bringing people together to transform lives. www.locality.org.uk

About Power Partnerships

The Power Partnerships report follows from the Commission on the Future of Localism which published its findings in 2018. The Commission was set up by Locality and Power to Change, and chaired by Lord Kerslake, former head of the UK Civil Service. It revealed a damning assessment of successive governments’ attempts to decentralise power and give people meaningful control. It also found that local government is at the forefront of the change we need to address the power gap between citizen and state.

Visit locality.org.uk/power-partnerships to find out more.

About Local Trust

Local Trust delivers Big Local, a unique programme that is providing £1.1m of long-term funding to each of 150 neighbourhoods in England, enabling local people to make decisions about how to make their communities better places to live.  Local Trust is supporting the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, which campaigns for the £2bn of remaining dormant assets to be used to create a new long term fund to invest in the social infrastructure of “left behind” communities.  Earlier this month it published “Left Behind?” – research which details new statistics on the state of the social infrastructure of England’s poorest communities. www.localtrust.org.uk

About Power to Change

Power to Change is an independent trust, whose funding is used to strengthen community businesses across England. We received our endowment from Big Lottery Fund in 2015. At a time when many parts of the UK face cuts, neglect and social problems, we are helping local people come together to take control, and make sure their local areas survive and stay vibrant. www.powertochange.org.uk  @peoplesbiz

Read the Power Partnership report and local authorities case studies