Labour commits to community wealth building approach

New Start, by Clare Goff

The Labour party is to set up a community wealth building unit to explore creative approaches to the running of local services and economies.

Building on the Preston Model, which has seen the council and other local ‘anchor’ institutions keep money flowing within the local economy, the unit will bring together a range of advisors.

Preston Council’s local economic strategy included working with six large public bodies in the town, including the Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire County Council, and persuading them to commit to buying their goods and services as locally as possible. Collectively those institutions have increased their spend within the town from £38m in 2013 to £111m in 2017. Spend across the Lancashire region has grown from £292m to £486m.

More than 1600 jobs have been supported using this approach and the council is helping to set up worker-led cooperatives that will create supply chains for public sector organisations in the region. The council has also set up a credit union to compete with payday lenders.

Announcing the launch of the unit last week shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘There are many creative solutions being used already, like in Preston, and we need to spread this inspiring work around other Labour councils now, so we can bring services back in house, stimulate the economy and provide decent jobs, extend ownership and control, and strengthen local democracy.

‘By working together to share these principles where Labour is already in power locally, we can sow the seeds of a country that works for the many, not the few.’

The community wealth building unit will include the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, which has been running local wealth building programmes for ten years, including in Preston, the Democracy Collaborative, a US-based organisation, and Unison.

The Preston model is based on that of Evergreen Cooperatives, based in Cleveland, Ohio and set up by the Democracy Collaborative.

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies, which has pioneered community wealth building approaches in Preston and across the UK has released an animation explaining how it works: