The Big Society is alive and kicking in Kingston today: “We want to give citizens, communities, and local government the power and information they need to come together, solve the problems they face and build the Britain they want. We want society – the families, networks, neighbourhoods, and communities that form the fabric of so much of our everyday lives – to be bigger and stronger than ever before. Only when people and communities are given more power and take more responsibility can we achieve fairness and opportunity for all. We need to draw on the skills and expertise of people across [Kingston] as we respond to the social, political, and economic challenges [we] face,” quote David Cameron from 2010.
The Big Society has become ‘The Shared Economy’, Kingston Chamber of Commerce June 2023 event, under the leadership of Hicky Kingsbury CEO for Kingston Charitable Foundation, Charity of the Year for both The Mayor of Kingston and Kingston Chamber of Commerce President Julie Leach. The Shared Economy was pitched to a full conference of local charities, community organisations and businesses, for discussion of, how we come together as a community of mutual aid, what we have achieved and how we can do even more – in an economic environment that has created more demand than in a decade.
The rising cost of living in the UK and across the world, sparked by conflict between Russia and Ukraine and its impact on energy prices, food production and logistics costs as well as high levels of debt built up during the coronavirus pandemic. Like many European and American countries, the UK annual inflation rate rose to over 10% in the last 12 months and has since fallen back to 7.9% in June 2023 with the goal of halving inflation by the end of the year and the government supports the independent Bank of England in squeezing inflation out of the system by keeping interest rates high despite the pain that this causes for mortgage payments because the alternatives of further borrowing leading to even higher inflation and interest rates are worse. The IMF have recently revised up their UK growth forecast for 2023 by 0.7% ahead of Germany, France, and Italy.
The government has provided a £94 billion cost of living support package with targeted protection against the rising costs for means-tested, low-income families, pensioners, and disability claimants with an average of £3300, and uprating Universal Credit benefits and the state pension in line with inflation. The government has extended the Household Support Fund of over £2b to local authorities, including Kingston Borough council, to support the most vulnerable families in the community. The government has also increased the National Living Wage by 9.7% to £10.42ph for workers aged 23 or over benefiting over 2m low paid workers. (Source Conservative Research Dept) Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Paul Johnson said, ‘it is hard to say, without tax rises, they could do anything more generous than is currently planned’.
While Kingston is generally an affluent borough there are still many less affluent including 18.9% of Kingston upon Thames residents estimated to be making less than the Living Wage in 2021 and 7.6% of working age receiving benefits in 2022. There are 23% of the child population classified as living in poverty, and 21% of over 65s suffer from depression.
Kingston Charitable Foundation is an umbrella charity that supports local charities and volunteer organisations within the London Borough of Kingston. Its infrastructure provides economies of scale for funding resources and its ongoing grants enable local charities to concentrate on what they do best – supporting the local community. KCF manage effective grant programmes, conduct full due diligence, and provide practical support and advice to local community projects. KFC supports charitable work across a range of different areas, responding to need at a local level. Last year its grants helped almost 25,000 people across the borough to have a brighter future. Over the last 12 months, KCF awarded 47 grants to local charitable organisations. Grants are awarded in eight key areas: Food Poverty and Support; Supporting Families Facing Hardship; Community Facilities and Cohesion; Movement and Sports Access; Mental Health; Disability Support; Advocacy and Support and the Environment.
KFC recently raised £11k through its fun July Dragon Boat Challenge event topping its average grant of £750 by more than a few knots to directly fund 14 new causes in Kingston Borough. Hicky Kingsbury CEO said “This means so much to us and our shared local community; fundraising to support our grants makes such a difference to local people and their families. To those who went above and beyond with their fundraising and smashed their targets and to everyone who sponsored and supported us, thank you!”
I recently joined the board of Kingston Charitable Foundation as a way of reaching out into the community. As a compassionate conservative, my role as Parliamentary Spokesperson, is to see where help is needed most and where we can come together to look after one another. The Shared Economy is about creating our sense of purpose, giving back, and human kindness in action in a very Kingston kind of way.
To donate to The Kingston Charitable Foundation or join their mailing list https://kingstoncf.org.uk/support-us
To join the Kingston Chamber of Commerce or attend events like the Shared Economy https://www.kingstonchamber.co.uk
To write to Helen Edward firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Edward, Conservative Parliamentary Spokesperson for Kingston and Surbiton