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Local economies

New urgency for community cohesion and empowerment

Debbie Ladds responds to Brexit.

By Debbie Ladds, chief executive, Local Trust

Since the EU referendum, I’ve heard many people say that the referendum campaign and results have exposed fault lines in our communities at many levels: not only racial but between young and old, and people of different classes. For those of us who support communities, it is now all the more vital to continue nurturing community-wide capacity and hope, through trust, cohesion and openness.

As active citizens we each have our own views on what has happened and what should happen next, but our role now is to help communities through this turbulence. We need to work out how we can respond in a practical and helpful way in line with our values and principles, particularly related to equalities. This includes a focus on working with communities in a time of uncertainty and building community spirit in times of change.

Many commentators have offered a narrative of disempowerment as a key reason for the Leave vote. With the political vacuum emerging in Westminster, and economic uncertainty a given, enabling residents to create and own their own long-term solutions to the challenges affecting them most will be essential in both areas that voted Leave and those that voted Remain.

At Local Trust, cohesion within communities remains at the forefront of our vision, not least because it is what residents tell us is important to them. In our Big Local programme, each of 150 communities in England have a range of support and £1m to spend to make their area an even better place to live. How to spend the £1m and the priorities to address is down to the decision of residents in each area. Since the first Big Local areas were announced in 2010, it has been clear that building cohesion and stronger community relationships is firmly at the top of the list for Big Local areas.

Brexit brings with it the planning of new national policy and budget decisions. Whilst many charities and campaigns will rightly focus on influencing these, we must also work directly with communities to help them identify and respond to local needs, and to increase their skills and confidence to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Our staff, partnerships, partners and reps have experience, knowledge and expertise that helps bring communities together, that listens to communities and helps them listen to their neighbours, so that their communities are better places to live. I expect that in the coming weeks and months our support will be more important than ever.