David Blunkett as he applauded those who have made a real difference
to their own communities, urged others to get involved, and pledged
government support to help them do it.
Hundreds of local groups working up and down the country show how
communities can be turned around when local people get involved,
bringing about real and lasting change.
Mr Blunkett today called on citizens, groups and communities -
working in partnership with central and local government - to get
involved locally. He said: 'Can-do people the length and breadth of
the country are already making a huge difference to their own
communities, working hard to bring about real change, building a
better life for themselves and their neighbours. They are not
prepared to sit back see themselves as victims of an insoluble
community problem. They have turned their ambitions for a better
place to live into action, bringing back pride and respect to
communities which have been blighted by drugs, crime, unemployment
'They include groups like the Poet's Corner residents in Hove who
worked to bring the community together and improve the area's
physical environment, and Community Action Furness which has set up a
range of successful community enterprises in response to soaring
unemployment caused by the decline of heavy industry.
'These dynamic people are what make our country great, and we need to
bring that commitment, initiative and experience to bear on
strengthening and improving communities across the country. This type
of community action is the way of the future - we need many more
people to get involved and we need to give them the tools to do it.'
The home secretary today also published his second pamphlet on civil
renewal, 'Active Citizens, Strong Communities: Progressing Civil
Renewal'. Civil renewal is about engaging local people and groups
activ ely in the decisions that affect them.
The home secretary reiterated the vital importance of civil renewal
and set out his ideas about how it can work in practice. He
identified the three key factors which are necessary if communities
are to bring about change:
- Active citizenship: people should be given more opportunities and
support to become actively involved in defining and tackling the
problems of their communities, and improving their quality of life.
- Strengthened communities: communities should be helped to develop
their capacity to form and sustain their own organisations,
bringing people together to deal with their common concerns.
- Partnership in meeting public needs: public bodies should involve
citizens and communities more effectively in improving the planning
and delivery of public services.
Mr Blunkett said: 'In an increasingly globalised world, people often feel that they
have no say in the big decisions which affect their lives. Now, more
than ever, it is vital that people are engaged on a local level and
feel that they can make a practical difference to the issues that
directly affect them.
'Local communities are best placed to define and solve their own
problems, and we need to build the capacity and confidence of
community organisations so they can develop their own solutions.
'It is not about the community doing it all on its own, of course,
but neither should it be about the government dictating from above.
We need to create a genuine partnership, based on interdependence and
'We want to do even more to help local people play their part in
making their communities safer and more inclusive. The strength of
our community life will be greatly enhanced if we can release the
untapped energy of citizens and community groups.
'This will enable us to tackle our problems and build respect. It is
vital that we increase respect in order to change cu lture, to treat
each other better, and to reinforce self esteem and a sense of
community. Young people and adults need to be able to put their point
of view, but also to respect difference. Respect - within the family
and the neighbourhood - can prevent the breakdown of normal
communication and bring people together in creating the solutions to
the challenges that face them.
'I want to see a new relationship between government and governed,
and need to build and sustain trust between government and the
people. We must re- engage people in democracy in all its forms,
re-connecting them with civil and political life, empowering them and
helping them to make a difference to their own lives. People should
be inspired to make a positive difference to their communities, and
influence the policies and services that affect their lives.
'And of course there is a crucial link between civil renewal and the
Home Office's aims of cutting crime and promoting justice - and
indeed wider government work to reform and modernise public services.
As a government, we must take people with us - involving them at the
heart of the process of reform and service delivery.'
Mr Blunkett launched the Active Citizenship Centre website today, set
up with a £1m government investment, and announced that
Paul Whiteley will chair the centre's steering group. Under
Professor Whiteley, the new 'virtual centre' will bring together
'thinkers' and 'doers' in civil renewal in a partnership to develop
new ideas, best practice and cutting edge research. It will be a
valuable and respected resource, helping to support active
A consultation document, Building Civil Renewal, was also published
today, looking at how the government can best support individuals and
groups to participate in community activity.
The home secretary's speech follows the announcement yesterday that
the £125m futurebuilders fund will now be managed di rectly by
the Home Office, enabling it to be integrated with the wider civil
renewal programme. The fund will continue to support front-line
community and voluntary agencies directly involved in delivering key
Mr Blunkett said: 'The energy of individual volunteers and the great potential of
voluntary and community sector organisations can be harnessed to even
greater effect when they are supported by targeted investment.
The futurebuilders fund, worth £125m over the next three
years, will help voluntary and community organisations play a more
central role in service delivery. This investment will mean improved
and expanded services that offer greater choice to local people in
key areas, including education and learning, crime, community
cohesion, health and social care and support for children and young
1. Mr Blunkett was speaking today at a meeting of the Scarman Trust,
a national charity committed to helping citizens bring about change
in their. More details can be obtained from the Scarman Trust.
2. Mr Blunkett published his second pamphlet on civil renewal today -
'Active Citizens, Strong Communities: Progressing Civil Renewal'. It
is available here.
3. The Home Office consultation document - 'Building Civil Renewal' -
is available here. Responses will
contribute to the drafting of the government's capacity building and
infrastructure framework for the voluntary and community sector, due
to be published in early 2004 and to the development of the
Government's broader policies on community capacity building, so that
they provide a sound foundation for civil renewal.
4. Paul Whiteley is professor of government at the University of
Essex. He previously held positions at the Universities of Bristol
and Sheffield and in Virginia in the USA. He is director of the ESRC
Democracy and Participation research programme and co-director of the
British Election Study.
5. Mr Blunkett's first pamphlet on civil renewal, 'Civil Renewal: a
New Agenda' was published on 11 June 2003 (Home Office press notice
157/03). It is available here.
6. The home secretary also announced on 11 June 2003 that £1m
will be available to set up a new Active Citizenship Centre which
would to operate as a consortium of organisations, university
departments and think tanks - developing new ideas, best practice and
research. The Active Citizenship Centre will offer advice through its website.
7. futurebuilders is a £125m investment fund to help
individual voluntary and community organisations increase the scale
and scope of their public service delivery. It was first announced as
part of the in the Spending Review 2002. The fund is set to come on
stream in the second half of this financial year.
futurebuilders is closely linked to the government's commitment to
deliver world- class public services. It will be focussed on the
community and voluntary sector, delivering key frontline services in
health and social care, crime, community cohesion, education and
learning, and support for children and young people.
8. The vast majority of people in England and Wales recognise that,
as citizens they have rights and responsibilities towards the
community, according to the main findings from the 2001 Home Office
Citizenship Survey published on 16 September 2003 (Home Office press
notice 250/2003). The survey is available here.