Evidence proves the value of community power – now it’s time for political action

Giving people power over their places and services produces huge benefits, new research shows, and should be reflected in new legislation.

Think tank New Local is calling for a ‘Community Power Act’, after publishing a unique evidence base of ‘community power’ in action – from Camden’s climate assembly, to citizen-led public health in Wigan.  

The Act would enshrine a community’s right to influence how their public services are run and how public spaces are used.

The recommendation comes after New Local’s research discovered six key benefits of community power: improved health and wellbeing; greater community resilience; boosted democratic participation; increased community cohesion; more preventative services; and financial savings. 

Community Power: The Evidence is the first research to take a comprehensive look at the impact of community power on people, places and public services, featuring examples from across the UK and internationally.

New Local argues that policymakers are failing to recognise the value of community power, partly because they are unable to measure its impact in narrow, conventional terms.

It calls on the Treasury to follow the example of New Zealand and adopt ‘wellbeing budgets’, which will take account of broader health and happiness, as well as narrow financial outcomes.

New Local Senior Policy Researcher Grace Pollard  says:

“Our research shows the incredible power we have to improve our own lives, places and public services when we work together.

“The small-scale, innovative local practices shine brightly alone. But taken together they form a community power movement: charting a more hopeful way forward for public services and our broader society.”

New Local Deputy Chief Executive Jessica Studdert says: 

“We are sitting at a critical crossroads. The case for community power has been built, and our collective yearning to build back better from a brutal pandemic means we have a new imperative to be bold.”

“For the potential of community power to be fully realised, there needs to be a deep reset of power between communities and public service institutions. From the Treasury down, we need to reconsider how we judge ‘success’ – we can no longer afford to measure tomorrow’s approaches by yesterday’s standards.”

Community Power: The Evidence was written in partnership with Local Trust.

Local Trust Chief Executive Matt Leach says:

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the power of communities to solve problems and create change must not be forgotten. To ensure all communities have equality of opportunity to engage, it is crucial we invest in the most ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods to make sure people living there have the resources and confidence to advocate for local needs, and ensure they don’t miss out once again.”

Notes to Editors

  • New Local was founded as New Local Government Network in 1996. It is an independent think tank and network with a mission to transform public services and unlock community power.
  • The full report: Community Power: The Evidence is available here from 00.01 on 23 February 2021  
  • For more information or to request contact with case studies, please contact Katy Oglethorpe, Director of Communications, on katy@newlocal.org.uk  or 0791 2161 536.