Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 6th December 2022.
I beg to move,
That this House
has considered dormant assets funding and community wealth funds.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Harris. I begin by saying that I am pleased to see the proposal for a community wealth fund explicitly considered in the consultation on the next portion of dormant assets funding. As the Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, I welcome the Dormant Assets Act 2022 and the future unlocking of new investment in good causes. Dormant assets have been a significant source of funding for youth and social investment and it is important to ensure that the next tranche has a similarly transformative effect by backing plans for the community wealth fund.
Historically, underfunded neighbourhoods have seen essential social infrastructure deteriorate, decay and disappear, resulting in depleted levels of the social capital that is so important for underpinning healthy, prosperous and resilient communities. When combined with the absence of places to meet, the lack of an engaged community and poor connectivity, these neighbourhoods experience significantly worse outcomes across a range of indicators, from health and wellbeing to education and employment.
The 225 areas the Local Trust has identified and named as left behind have considerably fewer jobs, with only 52 available locally per 100 people. Many children face poverty and live in out-of-work households and participation in higher education is markedly lower. Despite being at greater risk, these areas have historically missed out on funding. Research by the Local Trust shows that in the past two decades, left-behind communities and neighbourhoods, including those in Stoke-on-Trent Central, have received an average of £7.77 per head in national charitable funding. That is less than half the amount received in other equally deprived areas, and is well below the national average. Understandably, this makes it harder for these communities to take action to improve local outcomes and work with partners to tackle what are often deep-rooted and multigenerational challenges.
We saw these areas fare disproportionately badly during covid. Now, they are again the most vulnerable to the cost of living challenges, as they have fewer resources to draw upon and often lack the ability and skills to apply for funding. The community wealth fund would provide a crucial opportunity to correct this by creating a long-term endowment for deprived communities that have not benefited from economic prosperity, helping to resolve some of the disparities at the heart of the levelling-up agenda.
These communities are typically located in post-industrial areas in the midlands and the north of England, and are particularly prevalent in red wall constituencies like mine. In fact, seven of England’s 225 most left-behind communities can be found in Stoke-on-Trent, two of which—Abbey Hulton and Townsend, and Bentilee and Ubberley—are in my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central. These areas must be a priority when it comes to levelling up and fostering economic growth. Deep-seated disparities in social capital must be addressed by enabling communities to be the drivers of local social change. In particular, a community wealth fund would allow for a range of solutions that could be decided by communities based on what they know is most needed in their area.