How CLES and Preston City Council ‘built community wealth in Preston’
A new publication from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) ‘tells the story of community wealth building (CWB) in Preston’, reflecting on eight years of collaboration. CLES set out the defining aim of CWB at a workshop in January this year: ‘to develop inclusive and democratic local economies’. The publication builds on this: ‘local economies are reorganised, so that wealth is not extracted but broadly held and income is recirculated’. This is achieved through plural ownership of the economy, harnessing local wealth, fair employment, progressive procurement practices, and socially productive use of land and property.
The publication sets out a timeline of events that led to the creation of the ‘Preston model’ (as dubbed by The Guardian). Cllr Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council, describes ‘low pay, ill health and deep-rooted inequality [as] a persistent feature of the city’ when he joined the Council in 2011. He had a vision to transform the economy and turned to CLES for help. He states:
‘I realised that not only did they share my conviction that things must change but that they had the experience, expertise and commitment to help us forge this new approach.’
In 2012, Preston City Council became the first local authority in the north of England to become accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as a Living Wage Employer. CLES and the City council engaged with the city’s ‘anchor institutions’ – ‘organisations which have an important presence in a place … [such as] local authorities, NHS trusts, universities, large local businesses’ – to ‘unlock the power of procurement’ and ‘increase the local economic and social benefits generated by their supply chains’.
The publication goes on to look at the impact of this work in Preston. According to the report, in 2012/13 just 5 per cent of the £750 million spent by all six anchor institutions was spent in Preston, and 39 per cent in Lancashire more widely (including Preston). By 2016/17, procurement spend retained within Preston was £112.3m, a rise of £74m from 2012/13. The successes outlined include 4000 extra employees receiving the Living Wage, reduction of unemployment and in-work poverty, the creation of ‘stable, well-paying jobs’ that develop skills of the local people, and Preston moving out of top 20% most deprived local authority areas in the UK.
The report presents the ‘lessons learned’ from developing CWB in Preston and sets out the next steps ‘to build on these achievements and embed community wealth building to the fabric of the city’. It asserts that CWB in Preston is not a ‘model’ but an ‘inspiration’, and that the approach
‘must never be a one size fits all policy prescription, with Preston as the shining example. Rather, we must see what has happened in Preston as an example of the benefits brought by restless innovation and creativity. In this sense, it is an invitation for each municipality to develop their own work, based on the community wealth building principles and, from this, let many models bloom.’
Read the full report here.