Powers should be devolved to local communities, to make a difference in deprived neighbourhoods to allow localism to create work and opportunity. Recovery should be rooted in the communities that are most crying out for it. This call comes from ResPublica in its latest report.
The report, Responsible Recovery – a contract for local growth, highlights the long standing challenges of ‘regeneration’ and the big current issues affecting communities across the country. It argues that it is not enough simply to talk about economic growth. Neither is it enough to expect the policies of localism alone, which seek to devolve powers to local communities, to make a difference in deprived neighbourhoods. The need is for a localism that creates work and opportunity.
The report sets out recommendations which would extend the present scope of Community Budgets. It calls on the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and local authorities to work together to offer long term ‘community deals’ in which locally based organisations can act as the budget holders and delivery agents for a wide range of central and local government services. In return for the freedom to choose the most locally appropriate way of delivering services, organisations should be expected to develop local skills and create sustainable employment for people in the most disadvantaged communities.
It also calls for the Department for Communities and Local Government to kick-start the creation of a Local Endowment Fund, building on existing civil society and private sector-led programmes.It should be focused on the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and should be available to community-led organisations and social landlords working at a neighbourhood level to fund local action.
A further recommendation proposes the establishment of an independent review to explore the possibility of radically localising employment support, devolving the functions of jobcentres as closely as possible to disadvantaged communities and requiring Work Programme contractors to have a local presence in the most deprived areas, either directly or via community based organisations. The ‘right to challenge’ within the Localism Act should be extended to employment support and training, allowing community-based organisations to put forward alternative bids where they feel they can do the work better.