“With really empowered communities, pride follows.” Angela Rayner speech at Stronger Things

April 4, 2022   By Angela Rayner

The full text of the speech delivered by Angela Rayner at New Local’s Stronger Things 2022 at the Guildhall, London on 29 March.

What an honour to be here and open such a fantastic conference! I am so pleased to be here. It still a novelty to deliver a speech in person again and I am incredibly grateful to New Local and their network for having me. 

I am here to get you excited about the incredible work happening across the country in powerful communities and why it is so important to me and the Labour Party. 

We know that all of us in this room believe in community power. 

We believe in the idea that people should have a say over what happens in the place they live.  

We believe that empowered communities see amazing change.  

But not everyone can see the good that local thinking, local power and local choices can do. That’s why it is our role to go out into the world and make the argument for it.

We have to show people the difference in wellbeing, education, safety, and the environment that communities can make.  

When given the choices and the tools we know we can see amazing things happen. 

And even with limited tools I know there are incredible people doing extraordinary things to bring their communities together.  

As a member of Parliament I’m lucky enough to be able to meet some of them and see first hand the work they do. 

“I know what empowerment feels like. And I also know what disempowerment feels like.” 

There’s a woman in my constituency of Ashton-under-Lyne called Pauline Town. I mean, with a name like that she was always going to be a community leader.  

Pauline runs the Station Hotel – a pub which doubles up as a hub for those in need. She’s the landlady of the pub, she pulls pints and sells crisps, but for six years she has been helping the most vulnerable people in her community by packing and donating over 100 lunches a day and setting them up with warm beds if they find themselves without one. 

With her generosity Pauline is supporting the homeless, victims of domestic abuse, and those facing the sharpest end of poverty in her community. 

She’s taken the resources at her disposal, she’s seen the problems that need solving, and with the power she has… she’s changing lives in her community.  

The programme she has spear headed is called “We Shall Overcome”. What a truly fitting name for work which sees people get the support they need in their community, to get back on their feet.  

Pauline has never sought praise for her work, in fact she actively tries her best to avoid it.  

She talks instead about the team around her and the people that support her work. She talks about the people she helps and their challenges.  

She is the greatest example of community power. Taking what you have, and changing lives. 

Rest assured that when I think about the power to change communities, I think about Pauline. 

And that is why, at the heart of Labour’s mission to lead this country, are the ideals of security, prosperity and respect for everyone, in every community, 

We believe that power, resources and decision-making should lie as close to people as possible, so they have the security to shape their lives. 

We want to see prosperity among the people that create our countries wealth, right in the heart of communities.  

And we want to see everyone treated with respect and dignity where they live. 

These aren’t unachievable ideas, these aren’t concepts that should feel abstract, they are simply the basics we all need for a good life. The good life that every individual, their family and all those in their community deserve.  

I know what empowerment feels like. And I also know what disempowerment feels like. 

We can all think about moments in our lives where we have felt powerless, or stuck, or like we couldn’t change the situation that we were in. 

It is a hopeless feeling. I fell pregnant when I was 16, I left school with no formal qualifications and a baby son in my arms.  

For any of you that have a teenage daughter, I am sure that is a pretty terrifying thought! 

I was powerless. I didn’t have any resources available, I had no knowledge or training, and I didn’t know how to change my situation.  

Now apply that scary thought, of a teen mother with no levers to pull to change her situation… to a whole town.  

Suddenly there are whole families feeling powerless and disengaged, feeling like they are stuck with no way to make change, feeling a little hopeless. 

It isn’t difficult to see how we end up trapped in a cycle of disempowerment, with communities that feel stuck and helpless.  

But just as I was incredibly fortunate as a teen mum to be pulled up by incredible investments into young people and mothers… 

…every village, town and city in Britain can be pulled up with the right support.  

“Pride isn’t a feeling you can legislate for. But with really empowered communities, pride follows.”

Empowerment means giving local people the ability to create and build their community in a way that serves them. 

It means giving them the levers to nurture, strengthen and deepen the connections in neighbourhood. 

It means giving people a real sense of control over where they live. 

I know there is a huge amount of support from working people, from families and from young people to be involved in local decision making. They want to be able to chose how the money and resources in their community are spent.  

They know better than the Prime Minister or the so-called Levelling-up Secretary what the problems are and what the solutions might be. 

If the Government seeks to put a high-rise tower block in every town when what people feel they really need is a library and community centre, they are failing. They are taking away their choices. And they are disempowering them from making the decision for their community. 

Community is a very serious part of a person’s identity. I am so proudly a Manc, that even when multiple political commentators have told me to “talk proper”, I will wear my accent with pride.  

I have Stockport’s culture, community and unique way of doing things built into me. It makes me proud, it empowers me. 

Pride isn’t a feeling you can legislate for. But with really empowered communities, pride follows. Where there are proud people there is security, prosperity and respect.

“We need strong, empowered communities, to lift to up the most vulnerable and support those that need it.”  

I don’t buy the pride is a sin thing, even in a fancy church! Pride is vital to the good life I want for everyone in this country. And it comes from well kept streets, from good public services, from things as simple as nice gardens.  

Proud communities are not costly things to build. They don’t need fancy high rise buildings or lots of posters that say levelling up. They need the power to decide for themselves how they want to live as a community. 

If the government really wants to level up anywhere it needs to stop levelling down the importance of social and supportive communities.  

Employment, health, and education prospects are better in proud communities. Both evidence and experience indicate that strong social foundations are vital to any real success of pulling up a community.  

I know that to be true more than anyone.  

It was social structures, a public sector job, a Sure Start centre, a library and a Trade Union that brought me to where I am now. I can never really express my gratitude for how those social structures, and the people in them, changed my life and my community.  

And that is why I feel so strongly that we need strong, empowered communities, to lift to up the most vulnerable and support those that need it. 

Pauline Town hands out lunches every day to people who know her as their friend and neighbour. They build connections in her pub doorway that help pull those people up. Can you imagine what Pauline could do with a little money? A few members of paid staff? A few more hours dedicated to her community work?  

The very point of governing surely has to be to empower people like Pauline to serve their communities and make things better.  

There can’t be anywhere that is left behind in the Britain that we build. The good life that we all deserve is only achievable in good places. Lets go forward and build those good places. 

Find out more about community power.

Join our mailing list