The Kruger report on Levelling Up: a step towards consensus between government and civil society
Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Danny Kruger’s report – Levelling Up our Communities – proposes a re-emphasis on communities in the recovery from COVID-19. John Copps argues that it is a welcome step towards building a society-wide consensus.
Yesterday saw the publication of Danny Kruger’s much-anticipated report ‘Levelling Up our Communities’, produced in response to an invitation by the Prime Minister to develop proposals to maximise the role of volunteers, community groups, charities and social enterprises in the fight against COVID-19.
The report sets out a far-reaching vision for a ‘more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods’. It argues how a ‘social covenant’ and notion of ‘community power’ must replace remote bureaucracies and put communities at the heart of policy-making. These messages certainly feel like they should strike a chord.
One day on, I want to make three observations on the report, the reaction to it, and what this might mean for the uptake of its recommendations.
The first is that it is packed with ideas. Mostly, this is the result of a huge consultation exercise, involving ‘five hundred written submissions’ and ‘dozens of online conversations’.
Perhaps as a result of this, the immediate of reaction on Twitter was lots of people laying claim over these ideas – “it is good to see what we suggested…” and “as we proposed…”. This meant a generally warm reception for the report. This is a difficult trick to pull off and can only be a good thing for building consensus.
The second is that it is a combination of old and new ideas. Reference to social value threads itself throughout the report, improving data on what works is in there, as is the potential of digital communications, and there’s a call to revive the momentum that saw mutuals spin out of the public sector. The report also argues for the establishment of Family Hubs to be accelerated, as pledged in the Government’s manifesto. Newer ideas include a Recovery Fund, community ‘right to buy’, and community improvement districts.
The third observation is that the report hits a welcome note of optimism. For all those working in public service, the last six months have been hard and winter is just beginning. Whilst you may not agree with everything, the sentiment is the right one: it will take a collective effort to do this, and government’s role is to help communities to achieve their potential. Perhaps it is too optimistic at points – “it would be tremendous to see Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft collectively undertake to turn England’s 2,800 libraries into digital hubs for local communities” – but it is right to be ambitious.
What happens next?
The immediate (and unanswerable) question on the report is ‘will it get find traction within Government?’. The Prime Minister promises in an accompanying letter that the Secretary of State for DCMS will ‘actively’ consider it and update Kruger ‘in due course’.
Of course the other route is for its supporters in civil society – charities, social businesses, councils and parts of Whitehall – to adopt its ideas and encourage government to back them. Supporters will likely need to coalesce around a subset of the ideas to make that work. I know conversations have already started.
‘Levelling Up’ is a welcome contribution to the discussion on how the UK can recover from COVID-19, and comes at a time when consensus is needed. Let’s hope it gets the attention it deserves.