A busy few days

It’s been a busy time recently, what with the resignation of both Hazel Blears and James Purnell, the two Secretaries of State we have worked hard to influence. Hazel, in particular, was a strong advocate for the Community Allowance and we are waiting with some trepidation to see what the new Ministers will make of it.

Yesterday I went to a quarterly meeting of the Community Sector Coalition, in part to brief the Chief Executives of the member organisations about progress on the Community Allowance and in part to talk to Phillip Blond, who was there talking about his Progressive Conservatism project.

It was an interesting discussion about what builds associative behaviour and the need to broaden and pluralise our notions of ownership. All stuff that has been the bread and butter of the community sector but it was refreshing to hear it talked about with such passion and clarity from a Conservative.

Phillip suggested we write a list of all the harmful things the state does to the community sector. No doubt the benefits regulations will be in that list. He has kindly agreed to write a piece for a booklet we’ll be publishing later in the summer about the Community Allowance.

Yesterday came the depressing news that unemployment has reached a new 12 year high, with the CBI predicting that there is worse to come, estimating that unemployment will reach 3 million by 2010.

Then today the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report that unsurprisingly shows that people in deprived areas are being worst hit by unemployment.

All this points to a need for a Community Allowance now more than ever. We have been advised that the DWP will be making a decision about our Right to Bid proposal next week and have written to our supporters asking them to write to Yvette Cooper, the new Secretary of State for DWP, letting her know just how important a Community Allowance could be in these difficult economic times.

We believe it will:

  • Encourage positive behaviour – people doing good in their communities – creating role models and turning problems into solutions
  • Generate thousands of new jobs at a micro level in the poorest areas – laying the foundation for resilient communities
  • Turn the welfare safety net into a springboard – helping people bounce back rather than sink down in the recession

If you can see the need for a Community Allowance in your community please take the time to write to Yvette Cooper today.

This campaign started back in 2001 from the grassroots experience of hundreds of people across the country, drawing on their frustrations and aspirations for what could be achieved if the benefits system supported rather than held back community regeneration. It has built on the momentum created by the New Start/Urban Forum campaign a few years ago and over the last year has involved hundreds more people across the UK in letting James Purnell MP know how important a Community Allowance could be in transforming lives and communities.

Let’s not let all this effort go to waste.

You can write to her at:

Yvette Cooper MP, Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions,Caxton House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9DA

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3 responses to “A busy few days

  1. It’s good that the campaign hasn’t lost its momentum, but I’d be cautious about aligning it too closely with Phillip Blond’s anti-state agenda. The Community Allowance won’t work without central government support (unless we’d accept a system where it was at the discretion of local authorities).

    The point is not ‘central bad, local good’, but that central government is most effective when it’s in tune with and responsive to the needs of local communities.

    • Thanks Julian – interesting points. Rather than aiming to align ourselves with Phillip Blond’s thinking, we are engaging with a number of key thinkers and asking them to write pieces about the Community Allowance from their perspective. We’re aiming for this to be a collection of writing from across the political spectrum. It will be published this September along with a Social Return on Investment study of the Community Allowance that the New Economics Foundation are currently undertaking.

  2. That sounds good – look forward to hearing more. Perhaps we can have a chat about this soon and see how New Start can support it.

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