This report calls on the next Prime Minister to rethink the government’s strategy to boost civic pride – a core commitment of the ‘levelling up’ agenda
In this report, we examine two of the most important ideas that emerged in the UK Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, published in early 2022, as well as in the wider debate: specifically, the idea that in many left-behind towns and communities there is a diminishing sense of local pride, and the contention that tackling this deficit is integral to the challenge of improving the social and economic prospects of these places.
We suggest that the current understanding of pride in place in the Levelling Up White Paper is an oversimplified way of thinking about local identities. We also challenge the idea, implicit in the White Paper, that left-behind places are the same areas what exhibit weaker forms of civic pride.
We therefore reflect upon some of the key policy tools that are most relevant to the challenge of enhancing the cultural life of poorer towns and left-behind areas in particular, and how these can boost the feelings of place-identity and pride which can – as we outline – make an important contribution to some of the other key objectives that UK policymakers are most interested in, such as economic growth and social capital.
We argue that if government is serious about boosting pride, it needs to be more ambitious for the communities it serves. We believe that the next Prime Minister should increase the size of the Community Ownership Fund from its current £150 million to £1 billion. As part of this – and to ensure long-term sustainability – we also encourage it to invest in the capacity building in communities.
We also recommend that government commits to a ‘Minimum Standard Guarantee’ so that communities across the country have access to a basic level of social and cultural amenities; adopt a ‘green is good’ principle and legislate to ensure that green spaces are protected in perpetuity and not threatened by encroachment; enshrine community ownership in law; extend powers to fix up high streets so that communities have a say over what happens in the neighbourhoods that they live, and place the onus on government – both national and local – to unlock onward devolution where it has stalled.
Finally, we suggest that a Minister for Civic Pride is created to drive focus across Westminster to ensure that departments are boosting pride in a way that meaningfully impacts the lives of millions of Britons.
Report: Townscapes: Pride in Place