CLES manifesto sets out how the next government can truly serve people, places and planet
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) has launched ‘The manifesto for local economies’, setting out a vision for ‘how the next government should create local economies that serve the UK’s people, places and the planet’.
CLES argues that ‘with wealth inequality, deep poverty, and climate emergency, the need for a huge economic step change has never been more urgent’. Too many communities and places have been left behind, but this ‘defining election’ offers an opportunity to ‘achieve social, economic and environmental justice for all people and places’. In its manifesto, ‘rooted in practice’, CLES sets out its solutions across four themes: wealth, people power, public services and the climate emergency.
The manifesto paints a damning picture in which ‘44% of the UK’s wealth [is] owned by just 10% of the population … and has increasingly been concentrated and extracted away from our local communities’, which has allowed ‘poverty and deprivation to increase at an alarming rate’. The manifesto calls for ‘local economies where wealth is harnessed and works for all’. Its first proposal is a community wealth building unit, a national organisation to support and develop networks across local governments and public anchor institutions. This unit would work within the remit of a community wealth building act, a ‘landmark piece of legislation’ that would set out how the government will ‘utilise the full weight of its resources to build an inclusive economy based on community wealth building principles’.
CLES moves on to power and democracy, arguing that ‘the UK is over centralised and economically unbalanced’, and that successive attempts to correct this ‘have failed to address economic divides and social pain’. It calls for an end to ‘haphazard and unfair devolution once and for all’ and proposes a ‘national constitutional convention’ to consider how to develop and deliver constitutional reform and ‘reshaping local government so that it sits alongside central government as a co-director of the nation’, a conversation which should form the basis of new legislation. Further to this, it advocates new fiscal powers for local areas and introducing more forms of deliberative democracy, such as citizens’ assemblies and participatory budgeting.
CLES argues that ‘public services are the bedrock to a decent society … and the basis by which we build a platform for economic and social success’, but have been undermined by severe budget cuts and outsourcing over the last 30 years. CLES proposes a new social contract, which would include ending austerity, ‘building decent homes for all’, and recognising that ‘the NHS is not just a service that provides healthcare free at the point of need … but a social contract with the British people to deliver well-being’. It also advocates a new social security system, with the provision ‘of generous, non-stigmatising income support in conjunction with properly funded universal basic services’.
Finally, CLES recognises that ‘inequality is hardwired into the climate emergency’ and calls for a Green New Deal at both national and local level: ‘as we decarbonise, we must also devolve and democratise’. It argues that ‘GDP is no longer fit for purpose as the defining measure of an economy’s success’ and that we should replace it with ‘measures of wellbeing, sustainability and carbon reduction’. Alongside local Green New Deals and a national just transition fund to ‘ensure that no one loses out’, it also proposes taking inspiration from Wales and passing
‘a future generations act, which will require all public bodies to operate in the pursuit of the economic, social, environmental, and cultural wellbeing of current and future generations’.
Read the full manifesto here.