Five ways business can support left behind places

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Baroness Valentine and Lord Bassam share their thoughts on why business and communities must work together to ensure no-one is left behind.
Image of Baroness  Jo Valentine and  Lord Steve Bassam
Baroness Jo Valentine and Lord Steve Bassam

Leaving no-one behind means business and communities must work together

The UK is one of the most geographically unequal countries in the developed world. Too many communities are being left behind. These places have huge potential but have been limited by social and economic factors and are now being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Left-behind places are particularly concentrated in large towns and cities outside of London and the South East, in former industrial regions, and in coastal and isolated rural areas1.

We believe that now is the time for business to provide leadership, resources, and commitment to the communities they operate in. The need has never been greater; the most deprived 20% of local authorities have COVID-19 mortality rates that are more than twice as high as the most affluent areas, and they have also seen Universal Credit claims increase by 8% compared with a 5.1% increase in more wealthy areas2

It is also an opportunity to build on the remarkable ways that business has flexed to support communities throughout the pandemic, as seen through our National Business Response Network. Moreover, this is an issue at the top of the government’s agenda, with its promise to ‘level-up’ the country a key component of its 2019 election manifesto and subsequent policy announcements.

How Business in the Community is supporting businesses in ‘left behind’ communities

Business in the Community’s (BITC) Place Programme brings stakeholders together to act collaboratively on long-term goals, based on a common agreement of the challenges, opportunities, and solution defined for the community. Our approach draws on the strengths of everyone in that community – whether they are a business, a community organisation or from the public sector. This approach requires a longer-term collaboration between the local council, community leaders, businesses, and Government, with real vision, tenacity and leadership. It is built on an understanding of local needs, directly reported by people in the community, to make change happen.

Across our current Place pilot locations – Blackpool, Bradford, Coventry, Lowestoft, Norwich, Rochdale, St Austell and Wisbech– we have seen the transformative impact that business leadership and engagement can have. From Blackpool’s business-led Pride of Place Board securing a £39.5m investment in the town from the Town’s Fund to a group of businesses in Coventry leveraging their support together to provide business planning support, a van, and staff volunteer time to a local foodbank. Businesses across the country are making a lasting difference in their communities.

Our aim is to establish demonstration projects in every region and nation, improving our collective understanding of how to make communities happier, healthier, and wealthier for generations to come.

How can your business get involved?

We are asking our members to engage in collaborative ways of working in places that are important to them. Some of the ways you can get involved include:

  • Joining one of our existing partnerships in Blackpool, Bradford, Coventry, Lowestoft, Norwich, Rochdale, St Austell and Wisbech. If you do not have an existing presence, we can work with you to understand how to deliver virtual programmes in these places in a way that really works for local people.
  • Work with us to establish a new pilot in a region or nation we are not currently operating in. This includes the North East, East Midlands, South East, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
  • Join your local Town Deal Board. In 2019, the Government launched a £3.6bn Towns Fund, whereby 101 towns have been given the opportunity to work towards a Town Deal of the order of £25m per town. Each of the 101 towns is expected to form a Town Deal Board, which are to be chaired by a private sector representative and include representation from large employers and SMEs.
  • Provide support to your local community via the National Business Response Network.
  • Download the BITC Place Guide and Toolkit which provides practical guidance and advice on how your business can adopt a place-based approach.

References

1 Institute for Fiscal Studies (2020), Green-Budget-levelling up: where and how? [online]

2 The Health Foundation (2020), ‘Levelling up just got much harder’: launch of the Health Foundation’s COVID-19 impact enquiry [online]