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New research commissioned by Local Trust has found that residents of ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods want a greater say in how money is being spent locally.

Researchers Survation spoke to people living in 225 ‘left behind’ areas in England and found that 59% of them want more control over where their local ‘levelling up’ funding is spent. Until now, most “levelling up” funding has been distributed through local authorities.

Survation also found nearly four in ten people said their area doesn’t get its fair share of resources, compared to other nearby communities. Residents felt that their community facilities were missing out most (66%). This was followed by leisure/sports facilities (58%) and then jobs (53%).

These sentiments support recent research by Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion (OCSI) which found ‘left behind’ areas have fewer community spaces, cultural, educational, leisure and green assets than other similar areas and England as a whole.

When asked if a fund was set up to help provide more support to their community, who should lead decisions about how the money is spent, 58% of people said it should be local people, with a further 17% saying local charities and community organisations.

“When given the chance people have enthusiasm and passion for making their neighbourhoods better places to live. This demonstrates that people in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods want to take the lead in improving their local areas.”

Matt Leach, Local Trust chief executive

Despite just one in ten having been involved in a local community group over the past 12 months, 41% of respondents said they themselves would be interested in getting involved in making those decisions.

This new research highlights the importance of initiatives like the Big Local programme, in encouraging people who have not been involved in community activity before to take a leading role. Did you know that 28% of people managing local projects had not volunteered before they became involved with Big Local?

By investing in community-led social infrastructure; places and spaces to meet, recreational facilities, community activities and groups, as well as transport and digital connectivity, the Big Local programme is transforming the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods.

Research by Frontier Economics, which fed into Local Trust’s recent report, Double dividend, reveals that for every £1m invested in community-led social infrastructure in ‘left behind’ areas, there are likely to be economic returns worth £3.2m, including a £0.7m boost in employment, training and skills opportunities for local residents.

“If the government wants to level up ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods there must be opportunity for local people to have a say over what’s best for them, with the resources and support to make their ideas a reality.”

Matt Leach, Local Trust chief executive

Community Wealth Fund

Local Trust is part of an Alliance of over 430 organisations, including 35 local authorities advocating for a Community Wealth Fund, funded from dormant assets, to provide long-term support to the residents of ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods to rebuild their social infrastructure. The proposal also has the support of a cross-party group of over 70 parliamentarians, which is co-chaired by Paul Howell MP and Dame Diana Ruth Johnson DBE MP.

The Community Wealth Fund would trust local people with decision making power over resources, enabling them to design and develop services and facilities that best fit their particular needs and aspirations and, over time, to radically improve their neighbourhoods and their quality of life.

Read the survey