A group of MPs and peers from all parties has stated that without changes in government policy for leveling up, the most neglected neighborhoods in England will continue to be areas where human progress is restricted and potential is wasted.
Without reform, the 2.4 million individuals residing in these neighborhoods may experience an exacerbation of existing inequalities in the next 20 years.
A report was released on Wednesday by the all-party parliamentary group for disadvantaged communities. It is considered to be the first comprehensive investigation into the effectiveness of the government’s levelling up strategies in these areas.
225 areas in England have been labeled as “left behind.” These regions are home to approximately 4% of the population and are characterized by significant levels of poverty and community need, as well as limited investment and resources. These areas are typically located on the outskirts of former industrial towns.
According to the latest report, past administrations have failed to acknowledge the extent of issues in local communities and have not effectively connected with the residents. These areas have been overlooked when it comes to funding for improvement initiatives.
The report suggests that in order for levelling up to be effective, it should be driven by individuals within the community and tailored to meet local demands, rather than adhering to a standard approach at the national level.
The responsibility of decision-making, including funding, should be given to communities rather than being controlled by Whitehall or the town hall.
Paul Howell, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Sedgefield and co-chair of the all-party group, expressed that policymakers frequently discuss taking actions “for” or “alongside” communities instead of truly involving them.
He stated that the proper method was to empower communities to take action on their own.
Howell emphasized the importance of the government’s levelling up initiative to intentionally support disadvantaged communities, rather than relying on random chance, in order to decrease their level of disadvantage.
He stated that without taking corrective measures, leveling up will not have an impact on the areas that require it the most.
This is a critical time for the most disadvantaged communities, and choices made in the upcoming years will shape their future for many years to come.
Immediate action is necessary to rescue the levelling up plan from its current lack of direction, which could potentially squander the considerable effort and determination that has been invested in it over the past few years.
The government’s strategy, according to Dame Diana Johnson, the co-chair of Labour MP for Hull North, fails to acknowledge the magnitude of the issue in disadvantaged communities.
She stated that our report’s suggestions aim to prioritize these communities and their inhabitants in a revised strategy for achieving our desired goals of levelling up.
The latest report discusses how society is facing a crucial moment in regards to neglected neighborhoods, with “three potential outcomes”: continued decline, stagnant progress where they are barely keeping up, or a complete transformation and significant progress.
These locations can either remain as environments where human progress is restricted and potential is wasted, or they can transform into a key element of our nation’s revival from a decade of obstacles, and a fresh source of endurance for the even more significant challenges to come.
The findings of the report suggest expediting the establishment of a community wealth fund, granting local residents the power to make spending choices.
According to the report, resources should be distributed to disadvantaged neighborhoods without competition and overseen at the location where they are located.
The text advocates for an improved community program that would grant communities the opportunity to preserve assets such as bars, clubs, and outdoor areas through the right-to-buy.
The cross-party investigation of the government’s efforts to promote equal opportunities was established following the release of a highly anticipated white paper in February 2022.
“Individuals are experiencing feelings of frustration, anger, and distress.”
Barbara Slasor recalls being labeled as “difficult to reach” in the past, which still bothers her. “I wasn’t difficult to reach, I was simply easy to ignore.”
She contends that unless those in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods are given the financial and decision-making authority to determine what is most beneficial for their communities, there will continue to be an excessive number of individuals in that group.
Slasor is community development lead at the Gaunless Gateway Big Local partnership, which covers a three-mile area in south-west Bishop Auckland, a County Durham market town hit hard by the end of mining and the closure of factories.
The area experiences significant levels of lack in all categories, as 35% of minors reside in poverty, which is higher than the country’s average of 20%. Furthermore, it has twice the amount of antisocial behavior occurrences compared to the national average.
However, when the Guardian arrives, Slasor and other individuals are reluctant to discuss the negative aspects or difficulties they may face.
They wish to discuss the positive outcomes that occur when local residents are given the opportunity to make decisions. These may include a bustling community center, a thriving thrift shop, a lasting partnership in creative arts, or providing bursaries for transformative driving lessons.
In other locations, we have attended meetings where individuals are extremely frustrated, angry, and upset because they do not believe their opinions are being heard. However, here we have created an environment where individuals are able to express themselves and have their voices heard.
Although there were challenges and errors, there is a sense of shared pride in the accomplishments in Bishop Auckland.
Lesley Watts considers the community centre to be an invaluable resource.
I initially visited this place due to my mental health concerns and I was warmly received not only by the employees but also by the community.
“They didn’t inquire about anything, they simply offered me a cup of tea and since then I’ve made new acquaintances, which has greatly benefited me.”
Watts frequently attends the craft group and the weekly meet-and-eat gatherings. “I have always been hesitant about such places, I used to handle things on my own. But ever since I started coming here, it has been truly remarkable.”
She has also been assisted in covering the cost of driving lessons, which she believes will have a significant impact.
“I have a child with autism, so being able to go out and do activities with him and eventually return to work would be incredible.”