The Wealth Within: the ‘Preston Model’ and the new municipalism

The Wealth Within, a new report by Demos, assesses the Preston model and finds that it might help us answer some of the most pressing political questions of our time.

The UK is an outlier in terms of regional inequality. The introduction of a new economic model in Preston, based on Community wealth building is seen by many as important step forward. This approach is guided by a belief that retaining more civic wealth within a locality can boost growth and economic resilience in that particular area.

The Wealth Within finds that community wealth building marks an important development in the evolution of place-based policy initiatives that attempt to answer what we see as the two most important and related questions in contemporary British politics: how to create wealth sustainably in communities themselves and how to create wealth more equitably at the national level.

Across the world community wealth building frequently correlates with some improved economic indicators and this is especially so in Preston. For example, since 2014 Preston’s unemployment rate has been lower than England’s, which for an area which generally fares worse than the country on economic indicators is a real sign of success. Moreover, Preston has gone from 20th most deprived in 2007 to 60th in 2015.

So, the Preston model seems to work for Preston; it has a strong body of empirical evidence to back up its success and appears to enjoy the democratic confidence of Preston’s citizens.

Demos wants to see Preston’s approach to local economic stewardship – and other experiments in creative civic leadership – deepened, and for more research and experiments to be conducted on community wealth building. Specific recommendations include:

  • National Policymakers should trial and fund a place-based Community Wealth Zone scheme, where economic rules vary from areas outside the zone.
  • Part of the money committed for replacing the EU Regional Development Fund should be used to set-up a £1bn Co-operative Resilience Fund in order to ensure smaller worker cooperatives have decent capital access.
  • The Government should seek to promote fiscal retention of taxes to local authorities, whilst monitoring the impact this has on social justice.

Read the report here.