Community power campaign says We’re Right Here
The politics of localism is shifting and developing, at all levels. We hear about a new national campaign being launched in the last few days. The We’re Right Here campaign is backed by organisations like New Local, the Young Foundation and Locality, and its aim is to “press Parliament to pass a major piece of legislation which would give local people the power they need to shape the places where they live”.
The press release is below:
The campaign, called We’re Right Here, is led by seven people from around the country who have personal experience of building stronger communities:
Sacha Bedding, The Annexe, Hartlepool
Angela Fell, Northern Heart and Soul, Wigan
Neelam Heera, Cysters, Birmingham
Charlotte Hollins, Fordhall Community Farm, Shropshire
Inayat Omarji, All Souls, Bolton
Andy Jackson, Heeley Trust, Sheffield
Deana Wildgoose, Coalville CAN
Each has done extraordinary things in their areas, from regenerating a disused church for the whole community to offering a place to meet in one of the country’s most deprived neighbourhoods. But each is frustrated that the hoarding of power by distant authorities makes it so much harder.
[The video embed above features these voices. We’re especially delighted to see Deana Wildgoose from Coalville CAN, who is an active member of our Co-Creator community at A/UK]
They are supported by a coalition of national organisations which share a commitment to empowering communities. These are Power to Change, The Cares Family, New Local, Locality, the Young Foundation and People’s Health Trust.
Charlotte Hollins, manager of the country’s first ever community-owned farm, said:
We’ve been doing this kind of thing forever – supporting each other, creating good jobs, building community. But it always feels like we do it despite the system, not because of it.
Those in power are searching around, looking for answers to some of the big problems facing us – like inequality, local decline, loneliness and mistrust. But they’re looking in the wrong places.
We’re the answer. Local people know what their places need the most. It’s time we took back control for real. Looking for answers? We’re right here.
The campaign is calling for Parliament to pass a major piece of legislation which would fundamentally change where power lies in our country. Rather than politicians and officials in distant centres of power making decisions from afar, local people would have the powers they need to shape the areas where they live.
A Community Power Act would:
Give communities a legal right to self-determination. This would mean that the authorities would need to ensure that decisions about local services and spaces would be made at the ‘most local’ level possible and with the participation of local people.
Create Community Covenants between communities and councils. These neighbourhood-level power-sharing agreements would give community organisations and local people access to significant new powers. This would enable them to play a much bigger role in shaping and delivering services and to take control of community spaces. And, once they are agreed, central government would also be required to transfer more powers and resources to the local council.
Establish an independent Community Power Commissioner. The Commissioner would hold the government accountable for its performance in upholding communities’ right to self-determination – conducting investigations of government policies, practices and departments and making binding recommendations to put power in people’s hands.
The campaign is organising an open letter (available here) to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove. The letter sets out how empowering communities is a vital prerequisite for achieving the Government’s stated aim of ‘levelling up’.
We also noted this week some orchestrated leaks from Micheal Gove’s levelling up review, which suggest that further devolution might occur in the next few year, with elected “governors” being in charge of London-like municipalities, not less than 500k strong. The Times reports that:
Plans to “extend, deepen and simplify” devolution, though, are fundamental to Gove’s aims. He has identified an absence of local empowerment as a core reason for regional disparities: the UK is one of the most centralised major economies.
Top-down government, Whitehall sources believe, has failed to utilise local knowledge and meant that policy can often benefit commuters or new arrivals in a local area rather than its long-standing residents.
London has had mayors since 2000 but a new generation of Conservative mayors, such as Ben Houchen in Tees Valley and Andy Street in the West Midlands, has helped some in government warm to extending devolution.
Gove wants the devolution deals to cover areas with a strong identity and community, which in practice means many will be county deals.
More here. This isn’t remotely connecting with the kind of localist, even social-anarchist energies invoked by the We’re Right Here campaign. But it’s a sign that “self-determination”, at many different levels, is spreading beyond its usual locales of national devolution (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, etc).
This was originally posted on The Alternative UK blog on 2nd December 2021.
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