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Neither the state nor the market? Trusting the People: the case for community-powered conservatism

The Trusting the People Document

‘New Local’ is a think tank and network of councils who are on a mission to transform public services to help unlock power in communities. They claim to be wholly independent but to learn from and share the great things that are taking place in the community/council space in places across the UK – the new ways people are working ‘together’ to tackle issues in their communities. At the heart of their work is the idea that people should have more say over the places they live and the services they use.

New Local have recently worked with a group of Conservative MPs who are calling for ‘community-powered approaches’, using examples of places where this is already happening successfully and changing lives.

The Trusting the People document was launched at the Conservative party conference on one of Michael Gove’s first outings as secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities. Once you get past the obvious party political identifiers (for instance, the three ‘greatest leaders’ who all just happen to be Conservatives), there’s something that seems to challenge existing preconceptions here, as the document talks about the army of people in the UK already working within and for their communities, the need for putting more decision-making power and funding into the hands of local people, power and asset (buildings and services) sharing, and increased support for community businesses, social enterprises and employee owned organisations.

Hand on heart, it’s very difficult to argue with any of that – so even if you have misgivings, why not give it a coat of looking at? On their website New Local say more that resonates for us:

At the heart of all this is the belief in community power – the idea that people should have more say over the places they live and the services they use. We believe a paradigm shift is needed to create sustainable public services, better places to live – and enhanced wellbeing for all.

From the New local website

The real trick, of course, is to make some of these fine words a reality in communities country-wide… you know where we are (the clue is in the name).

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