We stand for families, communities and the nation - the associations that make individuals happy, safe and free. These associations form a ‘social covenant’ with the individual and the state - an agreement, inherited from history and passed on to future generations, to sustain our common life. We need a new social covenant to strengthen families, communities and the nation in the 21st century.
UPDATES FROM THE UNIT
In partnership with other individuals and organisations, we promote policy that gives effect to the new social covenant. We have been working on the following projects:
Community power: In July, we launched our Community Power Project in partnership with Local Trust, New Local, Locality, Create Streets, Power to Change, Community Organisers, School for Social Entrepreneurs and the National Community Land Trust Network. We will work with our partners to commend a more local, more human and more plural social model, as opposed to remote bureaucracies in the public and private sector. On the day of the launch, Danny Kruger wrote in The Times that ‘Trust the people’ must be the Conservative Party’s governing idea: ‘Centralised public services belong to the days of the ration book and nationalised industry. The 21st century needs a different model.’
We have been working with around a dozen Conservative MPs to produce an essay that makes the case for community-powered conservatism. The essay will be published and launched this Sunday at the Conservative Party conference (invitation above) and you can watch the live stream here.
In the private sector, we are working with the Balanced Economy Project, Social Enterprise UK, ReGenerate and the Better Business Act campaign to examine how big business can truly serve the interests of individuals, not just shareholders. We are also working with Neighbourly Lab on how tech companies can share user data for public good.
Family finance: As we build the case for the proper recognition of the household ‘economy of care’ in our tax system, our advisory board member, Mary Harrington, tests our idea on Mumsnetters. Mary wrote about how you can’t win as a mother: ‘If you’re not being judged for staying with your baby, you’re being judged for not leaning in.’
We will shortly launch our second project which will call for greater choice in our tax and benefit system so that couples can decide for themselves the right mix of work in the formal economy versus work in the home and community.
Climate change and the nation-state: On the final day of the Parliamentary summer term, we invited the radical environmentalist, Roger Hallam, to address MPs on the conservative principles in environmentalism. Prof Anatol Lieven also spoke, arguing that climate change will test our defences and security to the limit and only a strong nation-state will galvanise the necessary responses. Sir John Hayes MP responds to the challenges posed by Roger Hallam and Anatol Lieven here.
THE STATE OF THE NEW SOCIAL COVENANT IN WESTMINSTER
We take the temperature of the new social covenant, reporting on trends in policy affecting family, community and nation.
Just over a year ago, Danny Kruger published his report for the Prime Minister recommending ways in which government could sustain the community spirit that we witnessed during the lockdown. One year on, we are pleased with the progress we have made.
As well as £5.17 billion for levelling up and community ownership and renewal in the 2020 Spending Review, we saw the expansion of the Dormant Assets Scheme to include insurance and pensions, unlocking over £800 million for communities across the UK.
Danny also recommended more funding for communities to recover from the pandemic, financed by the allocation of the dormant National Fund. Encouragingly, the High Court ruled that the £500 million from the National Fund originally designed to pay off national debt could be repurposed for charitable purposes. We await further hearings.
Just last month, government implemented Danny’s recommendation for a deal with faith communities, announcing a £1 million pilot fund to help faith groups support communities to tackle loneliness, provide debt advice and improve employability.
We await further announcements on the Volunteer Passport after the government published research on the matter this summer following Danny’s recommendation that the system be created to match the supply of and demand for volunteers.
We maintain that levelling up requires social infrastructure (the software of social capital, trust and belonging), and we commend the Education Select Committee for getting to grips with social mobility by recognising the role of civil society organisations to build social capital. You can read more on the blog.
The committee’s report also acknowledged that families ought to be a central consideration in policy making. We will watch the progress of the Health and Care Bill closely to ensure it includes family and community-based provision (such as family hubs) in its integration strategy.
We look forward to the results of the government’s consultation on reforming competition and for opportunities to promote policies which strengthen true competition in the free market, as opposed to concentrations of power. Many businesses carefully consider their social responsibilities, while others prey on weaker enterprises. Recently, Virgin Media O2, together with Good Things Foundation, have donated 7.5 million gigabytes of mobile data to a new National Databank in order to tackle data poverty and get people connected.
NEWS FROM OUR FRIENDS
Congratulations to our co-Chair, Danny Kruger MP, on his appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary in DLUHC. Also joining the team to lead a levelling up taskforce is Andy Haldane, Chief Executive at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and former Chief Economist at the Bank of England. Andy delivered an excellent speech on levelling up at the Local Trust’s inaugural ‘Community Power Lecture’ where he described social capital as ‘the second invisible hand’. You can read the speech here and The Times covered it here.
We also recommend reading Camilla Cavendish in the Financial Times who argued that the government’s ambition to level up ‘can't be delivered from a desk in Whitehall’ but will require devolving power and budgets, and a focus on people and places, not just economic infrastructure. Lord Hague wrote in The Times on the same lines and praised Danny Kruger’s report for the Prime Minister, saying, ‘No country can be resilient and enduring if its citizens do not form the common bond that comes from mixing’.
In The Guardian, Jason Stockwood, co-owner of Grimsby Town football club, wrote about the sense of belonging that community institutions can cultivate. He writes ‘For all the positives that neoliberalism has ushered in, we have undoubtedly been seduced by the mantra of competitive individualism… [we] have been wrong to fully believe the high priests of globalisation, who dismissed people who felt a strong connection to their local community. They said there was nothing to be done about post-industrial places that became collateral damage as capital sought higher and higher returns and ignored the towns built on coal, steel, fishing.’
John Penrose MP presented a very welcome proposal (covered by the Telegraph here) to the House of Commons to give communities a vote on the style and density of new homes. It calls for the right buildings in the right places rather than ‘anywhere-ville identikit houses’ against local wishes.
Gareth Davies MP, with the help of our friends at Onward think tank, made the case in The Times for our recovery to ‘bolster businesses that deliver clear benefits to society’. In our ‘12 propositions’, we maintain that ‘Businesses, like individuals, are relational, and operate in a moral context; The purpose of a business is to serve the public; and, Government could stimulate a boom in the social economy.’
Thanks for reading!