THE Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, has backed a campaign for the creation of a Community Wealth Fund, which he says would give communities the autonomy to make decisions about local issues — rather than these being made by “far removed” bodies.
The Community Wealth Fund campaign group is calling on the Government to dedicate the next wave of dormant assets (from stocks, shares, bonds, insurance, and pension policies) to create a new, independent endowment of the same name.
Communities are feeling powerless to effect change, Dr Walker writes in Politics Home last Tuesday. A localised fund, he argues, would “put decision-making power and budgetary responsibility in the hands of communities” to address the issues that matter to them.
“It would, in short, give local people the means to create or rebuild their social infrastructure.”
The worker-bee commitment of Manchester to the value of community makes the city “tick”, Dr Walker writes. He points to the national church-led Warm Welcome initiative to combat rising energy costs (News, 9 December). Manchester churches are among those extending opening hours through the winter to help people to reduce their fuel bills by spending less time at home.
“Every week, I find myself in awe of another new initiative that has left an indelible mark on a community in need,” he says.
“But increasingly, I am encountering groups of local people with the very best intentions who feel powerless to effect change. Decisions about how and where money is spent are often far removed from the communities who stand to benefit. Resources are poorly targeted. Potentially vital projects are held up in committee meeting rooms or fall by the wayside entirely.”
It is “high time” for a reimagination of facilitating community action, he writes. He agrees with a recent consultation which proposed that “the next wave of dormant assets — cash and other financial assets left untouched for years in bank accounts and building societies, that can be diverted towards good causes — could be channelled into a Community Wealth Fund, to do exactly that.
“This would be a radical departure from the status quo, which has seen community-led regeneration become reliant on stop-start funding streams and the sheer, dogged determination of those pushing projects forward.”
Research suggests that residents were best-placed to make decisions about how money should be spent in their communities, he concludes. “But civil society cannot be upheld by the kindness of strangers alone. The Government is due to decide on the future of a Community Wealth Fund within weeks — and if it is serious about levelling up the country, it should act quickly to put a share of the significant funds available in dormant assets to this good use.”