Getting myself going on the Monday morning with the Conservatives, I was delighted to be able to champion the role of community-ownership in the context of future rural communities. In a fringe discussion hosted by the Countryside Alliance and which included the always inspiring Jonty Brunyee (from FarmEd – a place the Plunkett team visited earlier this year) there was full agreement that empowering residents; to run services, grow and supply food, support economic development, run transport and lead on broadband and mobile connection (in some areas) was something that all parties should have an interest in. Secretary of State, Terese Coffey and Buckinghamshire MP, Greg Smith were also on hand to offer insights from their community businesses in their constituencies too.
I also attended the ‘Housing Fringe’ whilst at the conference, where the panel made the case for a partnership between public and private sector to address the housing crisis we are facing. Claude Hendrickson MBE, from Leeds Community Homes, representing the We’re Right Here campaign at the conference and I did however manage to make the case for the third sector too. The role of community land trusts in relation to ‘stewardship’ and the delivery of community-led and affordable housing, alongside the opportunity to incorporate community businesses into new developments, as a way of integrating residents was seen by those attending as genuine opportunities that need greater attention.
My final takeway from Manchester came from Power to Change’s fringe, with research from More in Common highlighted to me the remarkable reach that the Conservative party’s ‘Levelling Up’ slogan has achieved since 2019. There is genuine, wide-spread, grassroots recognition of the phrase – even if the reality of what has been delivered is still perceived to be a little more vague. The point is, the central principle (behind the phrase) that some communities have been ‘left behind’ for too long and conversely how can this be addressed, is going to remain a focus of debate heading into the next election.