£2m support scheme to help level up disadvantaged areas

Linda Hines, chair of trustees at Witton Lodge Community Association, Afzal Hussain, chief officer, with representatives of Power to Change

A £2 million support package using unspent Commonwealth Games money will help level up some of the region’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The funding is the first phase of the West Midlands Combined Authority's plan to double the size of the region’s social economy by supporting community-focussed businesses whose goal is to improve the lives of local people and create new jobs.

Delivering on a key recommendation from the Social Economy Taskforce, the WMCA will use money from the Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund to invest in the social economy which is a collective term for social enterprises, co-operatives, community-owned and employee-owned businesses set up to generate income to address social and environmental issues.

In the West Midlands, it employs more than 120,000 people across 8,000 organisations and is worth £3.5 billion a year to the wider economy. The Commonwealth Games legacy funding will pay for business development experts to work with leaders to further develop the skills and confidence they need to grow their businesses and to widen their impact.

Seed funding will also be provided to ‘clusters’ of social businesses in each of the WMCA’s seven constituent council areas to support them to develop plans that identify specific projects to improve the local area and be used as a basis to bring in further investment.

The first local ‘cluster’ will be led by Witton Lodge Community Association in Perry Common, Birmingham, and co-funded by Power to Change. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, said:

“Our region’s social economy is a relatively unknown but thriving sector made up of a diverse range of enterprises that collectively make a remarkable contribution to society.

“The work of the Social Economy Taskforce has made clear that - with the right support - we can double the size of that social economy. Together, we can help put more money back into the hands of local people - creating jobs and supporting services that are delivered for them and by them.

“I’ve always believed - and saw first-hand during my time at John Lewis - that business done right can be a tremendous force for good. That’s why I’m so pleased that we’ve been able to deliver this significant £2 million package of support for the social economy sector and I hope to see it go from strength to strength in the months and years ahead.”

The WMCA’s Social Economy Growth Programme is part of its social economy strategy which has been developed in partnership with Power to Change, the independent trust that strengthens communities through community businesses.

Witton Lodge Community Association is based just a few miles from the Alexander Stadium - the flagship venue for last year’s Commonwealth Games. It has a track record of improving the community in which it is based, having been formed over 20 years ago by residents who were unhappy about the demolition of 900 homes in the area and wanted to help shape its future.

Since then, it has gone from strength to strength in building and managing new homes for local people and supporting the surrounding community in a wide range of ways, such as providing jobs and skills advice and hosting community events and activities to improve the environment and help residents to live healthier lives.

The WMCA’s Social Economy Growth Programme is being funded by the WMCA’s Commonwealth Games Legacy Enhancement Fund, which has been established because of the effective organisation and delivery of the Games last summer which meant the event came in under budget.

Following discussions with the Mayor and the WMCA, the UK Government agreed to invest the £70 million underspend back into the region to enhance the legacy of the Games and ensure the benefits continue their positive impact for years to come.

More funding announcements will be made over the coming weeks and months.


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