Wigan Council calls for cash to be spent in "left behind" areas

Wigan Council has backed calls for dormant assets to be invested in "left behind" neighbourhoods – including three identified within the borough.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:28 am
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 11:30 am
Wigan Town Hall

The local authority is one of 30 councils to support the Community Wealth Fund campaign which proposes a new independent endowment to be set up and spent on neighbourhoods across the country which are the most in need.

Almost £900m is expected to be available through the expansion of the government scheme for financial assets deemed to be dormant.

These include bank and building society accounts, stocks, shares, bonds, insurance and pension policies which have not been used for many years and where the owner cannot be traced.

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The alliance of around 400 organisations from both the public and private sectors wants a "radically different approach" to the way this money is spent.

Together with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for "left behind" neighbourhoods, it wants to use this funding to create an endowment to support 225 council wards across the country, of which three are in Wigan.

The list of wards, which includes Atherton, Leigh West and Pemberton, was compiled by the Local Trust and the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion.

Rather than relying on deprivation data alone, this research looked at areas which lack places for people to meet – such as pubs – lack community activities and have low levels of digital connectivity and poor local transport.

Under the proposal, awards would be made to each community to spend over 10 to 15 years, building "community resilience and strength" and increasing confidence and capacity to turn their areas around, the alliance has argued.

The APPG and the Community Wealth Fund Alliance, now backed by Wigan Council, are urging the government to adopt the proposal to achieve its objective to "level up" rather than making councils compete for cash.

Matt Leach, chairman of the Community Wealth Fund Alliance and chief executive of the Local Trust, said he is delighted that Wigan Council is joining the alliance.

He said: “It demonstrates their strong commitment to securing resources for the most ‘left behind’ communities and ensuring that their social and economic prospects are improved.

“The pandemic is likely to exacerbate the challenges these communities face, particularly the employment and health challenges and a response is urgently needed.

“This response needs to be one that shifts the dial – not just returning communities to where they were pre-pandemic but transforming their fortunes over the long term.

“The sort of flexible, long term, community-led investment the Community Wealth Fund would provide is in our view a critical way to achieve this.”

Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader of Wigan council, said: “Building strong and resilient communities is a major part of the next stage of the Wigan Deal, and our community wealth-building approach is about putting control of our local economy back in the hands of local residents, businesses and communities.

“Building a fairer and stronger economy – one that puts our residents first – will also help our recovery plans for a post-pandemic world.

“Partnership working is an integral part of the approach and we are more than happy to support the Community Wealth Fund Alliance."

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