Some 41 MPs and peers who are part of a cross-party group looking at how to help so-called left-behind neighbourhoods signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, released today, asking him to divert cash sitting in unused bank accounts to 28 areas which have traditionally been left out of investment.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed a £4bn Levelling Up Fund in the spending review last week, which will be administered by Whitehall and will be designed to deliver short-term projects.
But the the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Left Behind Neighbourhoods is asking the Government to go further, and to commit funds from the next wave of dormant assets - which is money that is sitting in unused accounts - towards rebuilding the social fabric of neighbourhoods which have seen the loss of vital community infrastructure in recent decades.
They propose giving local people control over funding in a community wealth fund.
The UK2070 Commission, an independent inquiry into city and regional inequalities in the UK, previously said that £15bn a year for the next 20 years was needed to address the imbalance between areas of the country.
And a spokesman for the commission today backed the APPG’s call and said it was “in line with the wider levelling-up agenda set out by the UK2070 Commission in its 10-point plan”.
The spokesman said: “The UK2070 Commission proposals for strengthening the foundations of local economies called for dedicated funding, for example through community wealth funds.
“This needs to be supported the provision of universal standards of service provision for all communities and flexible funding regimes to promote local priorities, and enable local innovative.”
Hull North MP Dame Diana Johnson, Labour co-chair of the APPG said: “The Government must act to guarantee investment in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods. Creating a new fund of this kind would be a catalyst for long-term change by empowering communities to act on issues that matter most to them, making them stronger and better equipped to respond to flux and uncertainty.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to sustain and build on the extraordinary levels of civic spirit and mutual aid that has been so vital in enabling communities to withstand the damage wrought by the pandemic – but this effort needs to be backed by funding.”
While Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South and vice chair of the APPG, added: "We are in the midst of a silent crisis which has seen those deprived areas with the highest levels of need facing the biggest obstacles to a speedy and sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
“The 'left behind' neighbourhoods in my constituency, and those of my colleagues, suffer from worse socio-economic outcomes across a range of indicators - and unless we dedicate specific funding to turning the tide, we face the creation of another lost generation."
"But there is an alternative, and that starts with handing decision-makers to the communities themselves, with appropriate support. I welcome this call for the establishment of a Community Wealth Fund."
Other Yorkshire politicians signing the letter include Barnsley Central Labour MP and Sheffield City Region metro mayor Dan Jarvis, Doncaster Central Labour MP Dame Rosie Winterton, Rother Valley Conservative MP Alexander Stafford, and Bradford-born Liberal Democrat peer Lord Greaves.
Mr Stafford, who is the first ever Conservative to be elected to represent Rother Valley, said: “It is imperative that people who feel they have missed out for too long, living in ‘left behind’ places on the edges of towns and cities which lack the opportunities enjoyed by people living just a few miles away, are placed at the very heart of our mission to level up.
“I was elected on the basis of the Prime Minister's pledge to level up the country, and I am utterly committed to doing so by bringing much-needed jobs and investment to Rother Valley.
“Investment in jobs, housing and transport is critical but the ties that bind us are formed in local places to meet, where communities build plans, ideas and projects for the common good.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “We will ensure our recovery from Covid levels up opportunities across the whole of the UK as we build back better.
“At the Spending Review, we announced our new £4bn Levelling Up fund to support local projects that boost growth, as well as reforming the Green Book, which appraises the funding of projects, to focus on regional impact.
“Next year we will begin setting up new Treasury offices and a new UK infrastructure bank in the North, as well as relocating 22,000 civil service roles outside of London and the South East.
“But this is just the start of our commitment to boosting growth across the country, and we will continue to revisit this priority at future Budgets and Spending Reviews.”
While the Prime Minister’s official spokesman yesterday insisted Boris Johnson was still committed to the levelling up agenda he touted during last year’s General Election.
The spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has made his levelling up agenda a central part of this Government's efforts.
“The entirety of government is focused on that, whether it's in terms of transport with HS2, or with education, or building new hospitals, that is the focus of the whole Government.”
The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 specifies that funds in England must be used for causes related to youth, financial capability and inclusion, or social investment.
Specific decisions about the distribution of the funds in England are made by the National Lottery Community Fund.