Meetings of community groups or neighbourhood gatherings should be treated as one of our ‘five-a-day’, according to a new report from think tank ResPublica that will be launched today by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Clubbing together: The hidden wealth of communities says that regular interaction with other people in groups of common interest is vital for the health and prosperity of individuals and for the nation in general.
It says that while David Cameron’s Big Society vision was intended to boost social action and community participation, it lacked any concrete implementation plan.
The report calls on the government to prioritise new policies to dramatically change the way that people in the UK “meet and mix”.
Such policies include eliminating VAT on commercial and empty spaces, reducing business rates on private spaces that work for the community, and using shops and schools as clubhouses.
The report, which is published in conjunction with the Bingo Association, states that governments have focused too much on individuals, emphasising volunteering and individual giving at the expense of communities and clubs. This, it says, has created a “civic deficit” evidenced by data such as the fact that UK citizens spend 17 hours a week watching TV and one hour doing formal voluntary work.
In order to address this, policy development should promote social activity, “and treat attending a community a gathering or associating in clubs and groups as one of our ‘five-a-day’ – an essential element in our health and wellbeing”, Respublica says.
The report adds that putting social groups at the heart of town centres would unlock huge untapped potential wealth by revitalising communities and boosting town centre economies.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles will officially launch the report at an event this afternoon.