A new report has called for more investment in the Charity Commission as part of a plan for “double devolution” that would be underscored by “community covenants”.
Michael Gove. the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, is one of 10 MPs who authored a report setting out a vision for the Conservative Party’s 'levelling up' agenda.
‘Trusting the People: The case for community-powered conservatism’ envisions communities and businesses being given power and money to strengthen their economies, improve public services, and build better places to live.
The MPs argue that new government funding streams such as the Levelling Up Fund are not enough to change the country alone, and instead urge the government to reform the public and private sectors to make sure that power is put into the hands of communities and people who have the expertise and commitment to turn places around.
The report says that, “alongside greater power and investment”, the project would require “radical forms of governance and transparency” to enable local people to “see how organisations are spending their money and ensure that public funds are not being siphoned away by organisations but go into real change”.
This would mean “creating ‘real-time’ regulation and oversight, so that places where there are abuses of power can be investigated quickly, and to prevent new monopolies emerging rather than waiting years for action to be taken”, which, in turn, “would mean investing in organisations such as the Charity Commission and CIC Regulator”, the report says.
The paper points to the “civic core” of 12 million people who regularly volunteer in their communities every year and highlights the need to unlock this broader potential of community power through an “ambitious programme of devolution” and reform.
This means not only ceding power from Whitehall to councils, but from councils to communities. This “double devolution” would be underscored by “community covenants”, signed between a council and local people to ensure power is shared.
The report calls on the government to take greater responsibility for Britain’s deteriorating social and cultural infrastructure by increasing funding for libraries, youth centres and post offices, as well as opening up opportunities for community control.
The paper urges the government to increase support for community businesses, social enterprises and employee ownership, including through tax incentives.
It recommends it reform the Companies Act to give businesses more flexibility to put local communities and the environment at the centre of their decision-making.
The report concludes that ministers should “trust the people” through a new “community-powered Conservatism”.
Siobhan Baillie, Conservative MP for Stroud, said: “The best way to 'level up' our country is through our communities, investing in the institutions and infrastructure that bring people together and create stronger social bonds.
“We recognise that Conservatives can rediscover that this is the bedrock of strong local and national economies.”