Preston Community Wealth Building
Preston, recently named the UK’s “most improved city”, has pioneered more democratic ways to build local wealth.
Preston profiled by BBC News
Preston’s innovative approach to economic development was inspired by a city 3,500 miles away. Cleveland, Ohio, had pioneered a new method of community wealth building, whereby locally-anchored institutions like hospitals and universities rerooted their procurement in order to spend more money with local firms.
Under the direction of Matthew Brown, who became Preston council leader in 2018, six Preston anchors doubled their spend with locally based firms from 39% to 78% between 2012/13 and 2016/17, picking local suppliers for everything from sandwich fillings in schools and canteens to printing services at the police.
“A lot of it is stuck in national agreements that we can’t influence, but say we shifted 10 or 15 per cent to the local economy in Lancashire, you’d be talking around £1bn more for the local economy over a 10- year period,” Brown told Far Nearer.
This so-called “Preston Model” has made Preston the poster town for the left’s approach to local economic thinking. It has spurred other councils to try out community wealth building, including Islington, Gateshead, Sunderland, Darlington, Hartlepool, Wakefield, Leeds and Southampton.
Neil McInroy, of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), which has worked with Preston and other councils, says: “It’s about local, but more importantly it’s about social. As part of our process we measure apprenticeships, the number of local employees, the real living wage, corporate social responsibility, carbon neutral policies. You pump the data in and it tells you how social the economy is.”
The next stage for Preston is developing a network of co-operatives that can supply to anchor institutions. “The development of coops will promote the development of community relationships,” says Julian Manley, chair of the Preston Co-operative Development Network. “It’s a social thing rather than purely a money-making or procurement venture.”
Other plans under development include a co-operative Bank of Preston.
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