News & Stories

Marmalade sandwich

Our communications lead Joanna Charlton blogs....

Bright Blue today brought together national and local politicians, campaigners, place-based social landlords and media to debate ‘After the White Paper; levers for levelling up’ 

It came hot on the heels of the long Jubilee weekend when I went to 3 events – in a neighbour’s garden, a park and a church. 

Success felt the same at each – people talking, smiling, sharing food (including Paddington-inspired marmalade sandwiches on Sunday), feeling a bit awkward, wondering why it had taken this long to meet up, vowing to meet again. 

But what made them successful was different in each case. All over the nation, these events were successful because local people knew what would work. A centralised top-down formula would have been disastrous. 

Our Stay Local, Go Far report - part of the prompt for today’s debate - looks at four factors which must underpin levelling up – economic, social, physical and democratic regeneration. Of those, residents clearly say that democratic regeneration is the most important – ‘let the local community drive plans and the results will be much stronger.’ Just like those Jubilee events. 

People who live locally know what’s needed and will work. Local institutions, like housing associations, who know and understand communities are vital partners. As Angela Lockwood, CEO, of North Star said: “There are no better organisations at understanding communities than housing associations. We've been here for decades, and we are going nowhere.” 

Yes, that needs to be topped by political commitment and funding – and insight from former Secretary of State for Housing Robert Jenrick MP and Damian Green MP fleshed that out (and the challenges of delivering in a cost of living crisis). 

And local economies must be strong – the importance of leadership at local authority level was brought to life by Cllr Rob Waltham, MBE, leader of North Lincolnshire Council. 

Plus the importance of community - equality, friendship and unity - by Alex Smith, of The Cares Family

We were reminded by Anushka Asthana, Deputy political editor of ITV News, that it was the Government's biggest promise – it's on this that we should be holding the Government to account. 

Chaired with agility and insight by Ryan Shorthouse, it’s food for thought on what happens next. Watch the debate here.