Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

April 9, 2008

DTA slams Government White paper

The Development Trust Association in England has circulated its members saying that it believes the approach of the proposed English white paper on Community Empowerment to be ‘fundamentally wrong’. An outline of the DTA position is provided here.


Community empowerment – government in need of assistance!
The government is preparing a Community Empowerment White Paper, and a preliminary discussion paper sets out their approach.

The DTA believes their approach is fundementally wrong!
We have only a short time to help them get it right. Please let us know what you think, by 4th April

1.What government is saying
Government appears to believe that the primary goal of community empowerment should be to increase the ability of the individual to influence local decisions, improve local services, take on civic roles, and hold officials and councillors to account.

They say that tackling worklessness is the key to regeneration and therefore to long term community empowerment. Local authorities will be in the driving seat to tackle worklessness, in partnership with others through Local Strategic Partnerships and Local Area Agreements.
They propose a massive expansion of participatory budgeting.High performing local authorities will get a share of £390m reward funds, with spending decisions made through community participatory budgeting exercises.

2.What should the DTA say?

Here are our initial views:
Community empowerment is not achieved by people acting as individuals alone. Rather, it is about people who are excluded from power and resources organising themselves and building alliances with others to bring about change.
Community empowerment requires effective community organisations.

Above all it requires resilient multi-purpose community vehicles (of which development trusts are an example), that are community led, generating some of their own income, owning assets, and able to tackle problems and deliver a change-agenda themselves and through partnerships. These ‘community anchor’ organisations create a platform for other community groups and social enterprises to flourish, and build both bonding capital among communities of identity, and bridging capital between such communities, and between those with power and those without.

Tackling worklessness is important but is not the only task.
It is one way but not the only one, to create empowered and confident communities. Each community faces its own mix of social, economic and environmental challenges, and should be able to determine the most effective interventions and apply resources accordingly.
Participatory budgeting is a great idea.
Provided, however, that practice on the ground respects diversity of interest and experience, and includes inclusive debate and challenge to produce high quality community-led proposals.

An empowerment programme should include much more.
Notably we want to see government taking action on:
• Community Assets (enhanced transfer and investment/support programmes to follow thorough the Quirk review)
• Community Right to Buy (to give communities the chance to acquire land and buildings)
• Community enterprise (investment in community-led social enterprises that meet local needs and create community wealth)
• Community Call for Action (through community petitioning)