Press Release: Community spending decimated in the run up to Covid-19 undermining local resilience, new analysis from the Centre for Progressive Policy shows

CPP launches a new measure of community spending and finds it was totally decimated in the decade leading up to the Covid-19 crisis - falling by 60% in comparison to total local authority spending falling by 30%.

In response, civic action - which includes volunteering, giving to charitable causes and civic participation – fell by 5% over the period. The West Midlands, which has experienced some of the largest death rates from Covid-19, saw the largest fall in civic action in the years before the crisis – 10%.

The new CPP analysis is published today together with a series of essays written by the former members of the 2020 Public Service Commission, collated by the Centre for Progressive Policy.

The Commission (2008 - 2010) was a major inquiry by senior cross-party figures and opinion leaders into the future of UK public services in the midst of the financial crisis. On its 10th anniversary, the essays of the Commission members reflect on what next for the role and size of the State within the context of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

CPP’s measure of community spending includes per head spending on services vital for supporting community relationships and social cohesion: libraries, open spaces, recreation and sports, Sure Start, and services for young people across local authorities.

Cuts to community spending have been large across the country undermining social solidarity, with every region seeing massive falls:

  • The largest fall in community spending took place in the North East (from £154 per head in 2010–11 to £51 per head in 2018–19)
  • The region with the lowest per-head spending is the West Midlands, with just under £40 spent per head in 2018–19. This compares to £56 per head in London.

Recommendations include:

  1. Invest in the infrastructure that can support community cohesion
    The UK’s social infrastructure will need to be rebuilt if we are to enable our communities to be more resilient. The social activism that has been sparked through the response to Covid-19 provides a new starting point for this. But it will need careful nurturing and significant financial support to fulfil its potential. For example, micro funding for community businesses, grants for local volunteer care networks and enhanced support for local arts, culture and sports clubs at the centre of many communities.
  2. Devolve social as well as economic functions to enable integrated public service and economic recovery
    If we are to avoid repeating the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, we will need substantial and prolonged investment in vulnerable communities. This must be tailored, coordinated and integrated at the place level, including investment in education, early years and children’s services, employment support and skills development, and community health workers (e.g. midwives, district nurses, pharmacists and mental health professionals).
  3. Treat people as agents of recovery
    The phased re-opening of the economy needs to be shaped by an informed dialogue between citizens, communities, places and the government about how we should collectively approach and manage risk. This dialogue needs to be inclusive to ensure the recovery and future growth allow as many people as possible to contribute and benefit from economic prosperity. Examples such as the Bristol One City Plan process, which convened residents, employers and civil society partners to develop a shared vision for the city, should be a template for places as they develop their Covid-19 economic recovery strategies.

Charlotte Alldritt, Director of the Centre for Progressive Policy said,

“The Covid-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on the social solidarity that can be mobilised in the UK, but we now need to harness this momentum as the cornerstone of our recovery.

The Centre for Progressive Policy’s analysis of the last recession shows the impact that cuts to community spending can have, stripping out assets and public services upon which local people depend.

As we face another, deeper recession, we must learn the lessons of the past: investing in community services and social infrastructure, such as early years, youth services, and mental, physical and public health. The Prime Minister’s focus on physical infrastructure investment is not enough to level up the country. An inclusive recovery demands spending on not just roads, HS2 and hospitals, but also social productivity focusing on people and places to build community resilience.

The government’s response cannot be a return to the austerity of the 2010s that undermined community action and social cohesion as we have seen in the 2010s. Not from a government that won big by convincing voters in the ‘Red Wall’ to lend it their votes to deliver Brexit and levelling up.”



Note to the editors:

  1. The social productivity index by CPP and the collection of essays by the former members of the 2020 Public Service Commission can be found online at on Thursday, 11 June 2020, 00.01am.
  2. The index is the sole work of CPP and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the contributors to the series of essays.
  3. The opinions expressed by authors in their individual contributions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of other authors or CPP.
  4. About CPP: The Centre for Progressive Policy is a think tank committed to making inclusive economic growth a reality. By working with national and local partners, our aim is to devise effective, pragmatic policy solutions to drive productivity and shared prosperity in the UK. Inclusive growth is one of the most urgent questions facing advanced economies where stagnant real wages are squeezing living standards and wealth is increasingly concentrated. CPP believes that a new approach to growth is needed, harnessing the best of central and local government to shape the national economic environment and build on the assets and opportunities of place. The Centre for Progressive Policy is fully funded by Lord David Sainsbury, as part of his work on public policy.
  5. About the 2020 Public Service Commission: The 2020 Public Services Commission ran between 2008 and 2010. It was a major inquiry into how our public services could respond to the significant challenges of the decade. The Commission was tasked with developing a practical but compelling vision for public services in 2020, appropriate to the conditions of the time. Chaired by Sir Andrew Foster, Commissioners were drawn from across the political spectrum, local government, academia, and from the public, private and third sectors. It was launched by 2020 Public Services Trust – which was a registered charity based at the RSA.
  6. Contributors to the essay collection
    - Victor Adebowale, Chair and Founder, Collaborate
    - Charlotte Alldritt, Director, Centre for Progressive Policy
    - Professor Nick Bosanquet, Professor of Health Policy, Imperial College
    - Paul Buddery, Director of Strategy, Volunteering Matters (Feb 2017– May 2020)
    - Geoffrey Filkin, Former Chair of Centre for Ageing Better
    - Tim Kelsey, Senior Vice President of Analytics International, HIMSS
    - Henry Kippin, North of Tyne Combined Authority (writing independently)
    - Ben Lucas, Founder and Managing Director, Metro Dynamics
    - Jeff Masters, Senior Head of Practice, Collaborate
    - Ben Page, Chief Executive, Ipsos MORI
    - Greg Parston, Visiting Professor, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London
    - Anna Randle Chief Executive, Collaborate
    - Bridget Rosewell, Commissioner, National Infrastructure Commission
    - Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA
  7. For more information on the Centre for Progressive Policy, please see or follow @CentreProPolicy
  8. For interview requests contact Thomas Hauschildt, Communications Manager, Centre for Progressive Policy:,