Chancellor urged to back new fund for 'left behind' neighbourhoods

A new fund aimed at helping deprived areas bounce back after the pandemic must be prioritised in the Budget, MPs have said.

The Chancellor has been urged to free up cash for a new community fund in the Budget
The Chancellor has been urged to free up cash for a new community fund in the Budget

A cross-party group of 70 MPs and peers want the Government to plough an initial £900 million from dormant assets into struggling neighbourhoods, with the money spent on local priorities decided on at a community level.

The scheme has been dubbed the Community Wealth Fund and has now been backed by a new alliance of nearly 400 organisations, including Sandwell Council, Birmingham Council and the Salvation Army.

They say the Government's Levelling Up Fund – announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in November – falls short of offering the long-term investment that communities in 225 "left behind" areas of the country need.

A total of 31 areas are targeted in the West Midlands, including East Park and Bilston East in Wolverhampton, Bloxwich West and Darlaston South in Walsall, and Brookside in Telford.

The Sandwell council wards of Hateley Heath, Langley and Princes End have also been put forward for funding.

West Bromwich East MP Nicola Richards, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for left behind neighbourhoods, said Hateley Heath had missed out on past investment due to cash going to Birmingham and other surrounding areas.

"Residents have slowly seen access to jobs, education and training leave, and with them, a fraying of our social fabric," she said.

"We need a new solution for Hateley Heath and other ‘left behind’ communities across England. I am delighted to be supporting the Community Wealth Fund.

"This sort of investment, funded by dormant assets and funnelled directly into these ‘left behind’ places over the long-term, should be at the heart of our levelling-up agenda and I hope the Chancellor will take the necessary steps to making the Community Wealth Fund a reality in the upcoming Budget."

The alliance is calling for the next wave of dormant assets – from bonds, stocks, shares, insurance and pension policies – to be used to establish the fund.

They have urged Mr Sunak to announce the legislation in next week's Budget that would allow this to happen.

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