Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 13th February 2019.

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Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Civil Society) 4:47 pm, 13th February 2019

What is destroying our high streets are the right hon. Gentleman’s Government’s business rate hikes.

The community and voluntary groups that are part of all of this innovation are pointing the way forward, not only to a better society, but to a new politics—not the centralised state or the marketised state, but the collaborative state, enabling, an open, participative and hopeful approach. This new people-powered politics will help us find a way to tackle the great social ills of our time, one of which the Minister referred to; loneliness in this country has now reached epidemic proportions. Loneliness is the product of the breakdown of the family, the fragmentation of communities and the cuts that have taken away support services. The Local Government Association now points to an £8 billion funding shortfall in social care services, but we also see long working hours, low pay, investment and jobs deserts and the hollowing out of communities. All of that has contributed to this situation, but, sadly, no single piece of legislation can put a problem that complex right. The answers lie in our communities, in strengthening the bonds between people instead of atomising them, and in building up community assets instead of closing them down as the Government have done. Communities are already doing much, but if we had the courage to open up power and resources to them, they could do so much more.

Our country is at a crossroads. The Brexit debate has crystallised the deep divisions that separate us from each other and the anger that has driven it. We need to come back together, but that will not happen from the top down. We need a new, more open politics, one that is more participative, embracing the collaboration and kindness that all of us, as MPs, see in our constituencies. For that we need a Government who recognise and celebrate the central role of civil society and communities, and are ready to invest in them, not cut them to the bone. That is how we can genuinely let people take back control, so they can build the compassionate country we have the potential to become.