Warrington Borough Council has added their support to the call for a Community Wealth Fund, a proposal for a new, independent endowment to invest in the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods in the country.
In supporting the Community Wealth Fund, Warrington has joined an Alliance of over 370 organisations from civil society and the public and private sectors, supporting the call for significant investment to enable communities to transform their neighbourhoods. There are 24 councils in total that support the Community Wealth Fund.
The Community Wealth Fund would take a radically different approach to most funding bodies, with communities at a neighbourhood level supported to take spending decisions. Awards would be made to each community to spend over the long term (10-15 years), building community resilience and strength and increasing their confidence and capacity to turn their areas around.
Warrington has one ward that the Community Wealth Fund would prioritise for investment: Poplars and Hulme, located in the north of Warrington District, with a population of 12,735. This ward is also one of the areas covered by the Central 6 Regeneration Masterplan.
The masterplan was developed during 2019 with input from over 2,500 residents and sets out a twenty-five-year vision that aims to make the Central 6 wards cleaner, greener and healthier and ensure residents are fully linked to the economic prosperity of the borough.
As a part of the Central 6 Plan, residents said they wanted to see local transport and places to meet (such as community facilities) improve. The Community Wealth Fund aligns with residents’ aspirations for their areas, as it would provide long-term investment to residents, enabling them to develop and design services and facilities that best fit their needs.
The Alliance is calling on government to make the proposal a reality by releasing the next wave of dormant, or orphaned, assets from stocks, shares, bonds, insurance and pension policies to create an endowment. Close to £900m is likely to be available initially through the expansion of the dormant assets scheme beyond bank and building society accounts.
The proposal has the support of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. The Group was set up to find policy solutions to improve the social and economic prospects of the 225 wards identified as being both the most deprived in the country and those with the least community provision as according to research by Local Trust and the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion. They are neighbourhoods which lack places for people to meet, community activities and have low levels of digital connectivity and poor local transport. They have worse social and economic outcomes than neighbourhoods that are similarly deprived but which have such provision.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group and the Community Wealth Fund Alliance are urging Government to adopt the proposal to achieve its objective to ‘level up’ ahead of the upcoming budget announcement in March.
Councillor Tony Higgins, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Community at Warrington Borough Council, said: “The work of the Community Wealth Fund is strongly linked to our Central 6 Masterplan and our ambitions to provide better facilities, support and investment in our inner wards. We want to ensure that all our communities have the opportunities to thrive in our town and initiatives like the Community Wealth Fund could unlock genuine, tangible long-term benefits for our residents.
“I am therefore very pleased to see the council’s name alongside other local authorities, foundations and organisations in calling for this vital funding which could further improve the infrastructure, facilities and opportunities of Poplars and Hulme and beyond.”
John Hume, Interim Chair of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance and Chief Executive of People’s Health Trust said: “We are delighted that Warrington Borough Council have joined the Alliance of organisations campaigning for the Community Wealth Fund. It demonstrates their strong commitment to securing resources for the most ‘left behind’ communities and ensuring that their social and economic prospects are improved.
“The pandemic is likely to exacerbate the challenges these communities face, particularly the employment and health challenges and a response is urgently needed. This response needs to be one that shifts the dial – not just returning communities to where they were pre-pandemic but transforming their fortunes over the long term. The sort of flexible, long term, community-led investment that the Community Wealth Fund would provide is in our view a critical way to achieve this.”
For more information about the Community Wealth Fund, or to sign your organisation up to the Alliance visit bit.ly/CommunityWealthFund.