What is community wealth growth?
It’s a two-fold strategy for council, community groups and business to work together and reorganise local economies so that wealth is not extracted but broadly held and income is recirculated. That’s it in a nutshell and it’s been tried and tested successfully in Preston, where, in 2013, they found that £450m was leaking out and by 2017 they had increased local spending by £73m (once again, yes, that’s MILLIONS!).
Pause for rebuttal
While you’re reading the rest of this, please consider commenting below, giving good reasons why this can’t happen here. I don’t mean things like ‘there isn’t the will for change’ and so on – let’s assume that magically the will for change arises here and that all it takes to add Millions of Pounds to the local coffers is to decide that we will do this. Now, give good reasons why this can’t happen here. And if you can’t, please do comment and say that you back this initiative – because Coulbeck & Dasein will put this to the top of their list if elected on May 6th.
So, back to the text – how does it work? Well, community wealth building has been advanced through a blend of five strategies:
1. More economic power to local people and institutions
A simple principle: small enterprises, community organisations, cooperatives and forms of municipal ownership are more economically generative for the local economy, than large or public limited companies.
2. Harness local wealth
Increase flows of investment within local economies by harnessing the wealth that exists locally, as opposed to attracting national or international capital. One example, local authority pension funds can be encouraged to redirect investment from global markets to local schemes.
3. Fair employment and just labour markets
‘Anchor institutions’ like local authorities, NHS trusts, universities, trade unions, large local businesses, housing associations and the combined activities of the community and voluntary sector are large employers. If they change their policy and practice they can recruit from lower incomes areas, commit to paying the living wage, and build progression routes for workers – all of this will stimulate the local economy and bring social improvements to local communities.
4. Stop focusing on cost alone
Those same ‘anchor institutions’ buy goods and services on a large scale, usually with cost as the determining factor. If they changed this consideration to environmental credentials, social value and decent employment conditions this would positively impact local supply chains, support local employment and retain wealth locally.
5. Foster community use of public assets
Those self-same ‘anchor institutions’ often hold both land and property – this is a base from which local wealth can be accrued. In community wealth building the function and ownership of these assets is deepened to ensure that any financial gain is harnessed by citizens.
Community wealth building can work anywhere. However, it is crucial in areas where the economy has been hollowed out through years of under-investment. So, why aren’t we doing this?
The above was creatively taken from the definitive account of Preston’s experience, read it for yourself and see if you’re convinced: https://cles.org.uk/publications/how-we-built-community-wealth-in-preston-achievements-and-lessons/