SOCIAL FABRIC

Policies of Belonging

Levelling up communities by giving citizens and their communities the power and resources to shape their places and to meet the needs of their members.
Will Tanner, Lord O’Shaughnessy, Fjolla Krasniqi
January 11, 2021
Policies of Belonging
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As we emerge – finally – from the pandemic, we need to not just revive a flatlining economy, we need to take steps to empower and recapitalise communities, to give people back a sense of belonging and rekindle the social networks and institutions upon which we all rely.

Will Tanner, Director of Onward

 

How to give power and capital back to communities after the pandemic

Successive governments have tried to turn around declining places and stimulate ailing communities. Their record is not particularly impressive. Many of the places that received funding and support through Harold Wilson’s Community Development Projects, John Major’s Single Regeneration Budget or Tony Blair’s New Deal for Communities remain “left behind” today.

These programmes have tended to rely almost exclusively on economic regeneration as a tool for placemaking. Policies like
grant funding, job creation schemes and physical infrastructure investment dominate.

In this report, we explore the case for building up local places’ social institutions and networks, as a foundation for future prosperity. We find that it is through the interaction between social and economic policies, giving people the means to social action as well as the financial security to make use of it, that places can be revived.

We developed a framework that speaks directly to the important traditions of community life: people, place, institution and capital and is intended to sustain, inspire and ‘level-up’ community strength across the UK.

  • Giving individuals the power to repair their social fabric.
  • Giving individuals the capital to repair their social fabric.
  • Giving communities the power to repair their social fabric.
  • Giving communities the capital to repair their social fabric.

We propose a series of policies to build on this framework, bringing power to individuals and communities to give back locally, and greater resources to ensure that the most fraying communities have strong reciprocal networks and institutions:

  1. Give every local area the “right to self government” through a parish or town council.
  2. Introduce a “family tax allowance” to allow partners to transfer their £12,500 tax allowance to their working spouse.
  3. Empower communities to secure land for community-led housing to ensure a supply of local affordable or social homes.
  4. Introduce ‘Year to Serve’, a civic service scheme to give unemployed young people a paid placement with local charities or social businesses.
  5. Give workers the ability to draw down a year of their pension early to take a “civic sabbatical” from work to give back to society.

We believe the conceptual framework we are presenting – a broad understanding of what needs to change, together with the powers and resources to achieve change – is the only way in which to meaningfully level up communities across the UK.

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