New Clause 1 - Authorised reclaim funds: duty to assess and report

Part of Dormant Assets Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 31st January 2022.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 8:00 pm, 31st January 2022

I welcome amendment 2 to clause 29. Those who have followed the passage of this Bill from its introduction in the other place to its Report stage today will know that along with other members of the all-party parliamentary group for “left behind” neighbourhoods, including my excellent co-chair, Paul Howell, I have long been advocating the establishment of a community wealth fund as part of the extended dormant assets scheme. The Government’s amendment proposes that a national consultation on the distribution of dormant assets should include consultation on the distribution of these moneys to a community wealth fund through including them on the existing list of beneficiaries set out in the original legislation on dormant assets. Such a fund would be aimed at developing social infrastructure in the most left-behind neighbourhoods of the country—neighbourhoods such as Bransholme and Orchard Park in my constituency of Hull North. They are communities that not only suffer from extreme levels of disadvantage and deprivation, but experience significant deficits in their local community fabric. As research from the all-party group has found, residents of these communities experience well-below average outcomes across a whole range of indicators. For example, our recent report on health inequalities found that people living in left-behind neighbourhoods have among the worst health outcomes in England, with growing disparities between them and the rest of the country, including the most shocking statistic that a person from one of those neighbourhoods was 46% more likely to die during the covid pandemic.

If the Government want levelling up to be a success, they must reach these communities, which, for far too long, have missed out on their fair share of resources. Funding has to be for the long term, supporting transformational change at the neighbourhood level. The principles underlying the dormant assets legislation make it clear that the money from the scheme should be used to have a positive impact on society by contributing dormant assets for systematic change. I am very encouraged by the Government’s amendment, which upholds these principles for the use of dormant asset funding, and I very much welcome the inclusion in the Bill of consulting on the distribution to community wealth funds.

I am not alone in welcoming amendment 2. As well as parliamentarians from the all-party group, the proposal for a community wealth fund is backed by a cross-sector alliance of more than 470 organisations, which include 40 councils and combined authorities. I thank Local Trust, the secretariat for our all-party group, for all the work that it has done to promote the role of community wealth funds. I thank the Minister in particular for engaging with us on a cross-party basis and listening to the case that we have been making on behalf of those communities that have the least.

I very much welcome the Government’s amendment and look forward to working with the Minister and the Government on how a community wealth fund can be established and implemented swiftly on the conclusion of the national consultation. I hope that Members from across the House will support the amendment.