Headlines: June 8th, 2010

A think tank is calling for communities to have the right to take back power from failing local authorities struggling to deliver good quality services in deprived areas. In a new study based on what is happening in two areas of Birmingham, Demos says struggling estates should have more say in how they are run.

The report, ‘Civic Streets: The Big Society in Action’ refers to the Government’s Big Society, Big Citizen agenda designed to promote community-driven schemes and more local politics, and says having elected officials for individual area would enable genuine political representation for people living on sink estates. The report looks at the Castle Vale and Balsall Heath estates in Birmingham.

It argues that where community groups can prove they can do a better job than the local council, they should have the right to declare independence from Government schemes and be able to bid to take tasks such as delivering Sure Start and employment and environmental services. Where community-led services were well enough to make cost savings they would receive “community cash back” for reinvestment.

‘Civic Streets’ also wants a key role in the regeneration of Britain’s poorest communities for major supermarket chains. It points out that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are eight per cent more likely than those from better off families to say that brand names are important and 14 per cent more likely to want brand label clothing. The report’s author, Max Wind-Cowie said supermarkets could help regeneration of communities by reducing stigma. “It’s easy to be cynical about mainstream retail chains, but they can be the game-changer for transforming perceptions within and outside of run-down neighbourhoods,” he said.