Restitch: The Social Fabric Summit
Untitled presentation - Onward Newsletter, 24/05/22

Today is the London day of Restitch: The Social Fabric Summit. We are bringing together the most interesting thinkers and practitioners to celebrate community, discuss the challenges facing our societies, and share practical steps to revive left-behind places and restore our fraying social fabric after the pandemic.

There is still time to sign up to watch today’s session online, and to attend the Halifax day in person or online, using this registration link. The Halifax day will be taking place at the Piece Hall on Friday 27th May. In addition to registering, you can choose which breakout session you want to join on each day of the summit. 

New Podcast!
Buidiling Belonging website 1 - Onward Newsletter, 24/05/22

To coincide with Restitch, today we are launching Building Belonging, a new podcast brought to you by Onward and The Cares Family, about civic innovators and the stories behind the institutions they’re building to bring us together in an age of disconnection.

Join Alex Smith and Will Tanner for deep conversations with the people who are restitching our social fabric, including Jon Yates, Sophia Parker, Ivo Gormley, Kim Leadbeater MP and more. Subscribe here.

In the media:

Last week we hosted a panel discussion on the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme with the Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, UK Refugees Minister Richard Harrington, Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko, and Viktoriia Pyrohova, a refugee from Kyiv that came to the UK on the Homes for Ukraine scheme. The event received widespread media coverage:

  • The Independent, The Daily Mirror and The Evening Standard reflected on the Refugee Minister’s call for the Government to make the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme permanent and extend its offering to other refugee groups.
  • Sky News shared some of the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK’s thoughts on the potential risks facing some Ukrainian refugees.
  • The Huffington Post, iNews and The Independent shared some the Ukrainian MP’s thoughts on the challenges posed by the current ‘Homes for Ukraine scheme.’

Our latest report  ‘Levelling Up in Practice: Oldham the Interim Report’ has also received press attention:

  • Deputy Director, Adam Hawksbee wrote for Conservative Home about the importance of Oldham in the government’s levelling up agenda. He was also quoted in Manchester Evening News and other local outlets. 

Restitch: The Social Fabric Summit has also been trailed in the media.

  • Rory Stewart spoke to the New Statesman podcast about the theme of his panel – the culture wars.
  • Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel was interviewed by UnHerd about his upcoming discussion.
  • Politico Sunday Crunch highlighted the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s political keynote at the Summit this afternoon.
Upcoming event: A Remote Chance?
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On June 6th, join us for an event with Zoom on the future of work and the long-term economic and social impact of hybrid working in a post-pandemic world. Speaking at this event are Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business Paul Scully MP, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central Jo Gideon MP, Bloomberg’s UK Economy Reporter Lizzy Burden and Zoom’s Director of Government Relations for the UK & Ireland, Charlotte Holloway.

You can sign up for the event here.

Onward Note

Levelling Up was always going to be difficult but it’s gotten harder recently. The cost of living crisis is hitting parts of the Midlands and the North hard and Ukraine has (rightly) absorbed an enormous amount of Government time.

adam hawksbee

In the face of all these pressures, it’s understandable that progress has been limited. But that needs to change fast. The public understands that regeneration won’t happen overnight, they want to see results. The conversation in Westminster often focuses on national projects – but when voters think about Levelling Up, their focus is much more local.

As part of a new research programme Levelling Up In Practice, Onward have been spending time in communities to understand their priorities. We started our work in Oldham, which Michael Gove singled out in his 2021 conference speech as a litmus test for whether Levelling Up has been a success.

When we spoke to people there about levelling up, their priorities were rooted in a sense of local identity. They told us about the history of Tommyfield Market in the town centre, which used to be ‘buzzing’. They talked about antisocial behaviour.  They painted a picture of boarded up shops and blighted buildings.

It’s easy to be dismissive about this version of Levelling Up. Some have cynically argued that a focus on ‘hanging baskets’ won’t turn around areas of the country that have been suffering decline and reduced investment for decades.

But what that misses is the role of hope and aspiration in kickstarting regeneration. People in Oldham told us about the high street because it is symbolic. It reflects the fact that they felt forgotten and ignored, and believed that the people who were meant to be in charge – both on the local Council and in Westminster – don’t care.

Balancing these two versions of the agenda – Levelling Up fast and slow – is the trick that Ministers need to pull off. Taking small, concrete actions today to give communities hope that things start to change. And then delivering major changes to how government invests and supports economic growth over the long term

We’ve published an interim report sharing some of our lessons from Oldham, and providing some actionable ideas for local leaders. Our approach is rooted in the local. It doesn’t place additional strain on central government and it doesn’t take years to see results.

But it does require a commitment to stay the course on Levelling Up, and remember the importance of regeneration to the new electoral coalition the Conservatives convened in 2019. 

Adam Hawksbee

Deputy Director of Onward

We are hiring!

We are looking for an exceptional candidate to join our six-month paid internship programme. The role will expose the successful candidate to all aspects of Onward’s work: you will contribute to our research programmes, help organise events with frontline politicians and world-leading experts, and support media campaigns. Applications close today! Please click here for more information and to apply. 

Policy Bites

The West Midlands Combined Authority and Legal & General (L&G) have announced a £4 billion investment commitment to regeneration, housing, and levelling up across the West Midlands. Link

28 projects across the UK are set to receive a share of £60 million of funding for hydrogen supply. This will make superfuel more feasible and aid national efforts to position the UK as a world leader in this sector and transition to greener and cleaner sources of energy. Link

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a new ‘Fighting Fraud in the Welfare System’ plan. This is worth £600 million and is expected to save the taxpayer £2 billion over the next three years. Link

Quick Links
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The Times & The Sunday Times
Ministers are drawing up plans to sever the link between the prices of gas and electricity in an effort to cut household bills for millions of families.