Dear Nicky Morgan,
Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Your responsibilities include Government policy towards civil society. I am going to leave it to others in civil society to tell you all the important things on their wish list, because I want to focus on one big opportunity which is yours for the taking. I urge you to give your strong, purposeful support to the idea of a Community Wealth Fund.
In a nutshell, the idea is that up to £2 billion from unclaimed assets such as bonds, shares, pension funds and insurance policies could be the basis of an endowed fund to invest in the social capital of deprived communities. This could include the supporting infrastructure for local voluntary action, facilitators, assets and supportive resources to make it more likely that people in deprived areas will participate in communal activities and decision-making. A full explanation is here:
Please consider the following points:
- This would cost the Government virtually nothing.
- It gets right away from the seedy tradition of Ministers helping themselves to dormant public assets in order to fund (not too effectively) their favourite or politically popular individual charities
- It counters the argument that this Conservative Government won’t care about the most deprived communities because they are more interested in tax cuts and the squeezed middle classes
- It does something for communities left behind by globalisation, who might bear the brunt of any economic impacts from a No Deal Brexit. These are also the places where pubs, libraries, community halls, shops, banks, and other meeting places, even chapels and churches, are even more likely to be boarded up and abandoned than elsewhere – loneliness and deprivation with a sharper edge.
- For a party that believes in active citizenship and taking back control, this would actually deliver some of the real means to local people of having more control over the decisions that affect them. It would engender more confidence about mobilising both to improve their neighbourhoods themselves and assert their rights and demands.
- You will also know from your wide experience of education that public services enjoying more vigorous voluntary participation and support from civil society generally fare better than those with weaker civil society and public participation. So this is part of supporting and complementing state services whether organised centrally or locally, particularly since this huge potential boost to local civil society does not come at the taxpayers’ expense.
- People in your Party often particularly dislike the idea that we must rely on state action and higher taxation to meet all the ills of society, and prefer to emphasise more voluntary citizen action and self help. The biggest problem with that preference is that without some sort of assistance or loading of the dice by the state, more prosperous areas of the country are the ones which spontaneously create a stronger civil society with more voluntary organisations and volunteering. The Community Wealth Fund is specifically designed to help rectify this basic injustice and imbalance.
- So do look at this one particularly carefully. It has wide support from important organisations in the civil society sector. The idea needs careful development in detail, and your support will be a crucial part of that process. It requires momentum and optimism from you, forging a constructive partnership with civil society with the aim of helping some of our most deprived fellow citizens to have more of a sense of hope and agency – and take back a bit of control. –
So please grab this opportunity with both hands!
Good luck and best wishes,