Labour Energy Forum is proud to be joining the Labour Party’s new Community Wealth Building Unit, launched at a conference last week in Preston.

The Unit will bring together councillors, unions, think tanks, and independent experts to provide councils with knowledge, advice, and practical support in adopting creative methods to secure and provide vital services, bring public services in-house, and use local procurement as a means to stimulate sustainable economic development.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell spoke at the launch: “The next Labour government will end austerity and properly fund local authorities, instead of cutting back and passing the buck like the Conservatives are doing. But we cannot afford to wait until we are in power nationally.

“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.”

Labour Energy Forum also spoke at the conference, presenting our proposals for how local councils can accelerate the climate transition, including by deploying local renewables and moving council-run pension funds away from fossil fuels into the sustainable economy and social housing.

Advisors to the Community Wealth Building Unit include: 

  • Labour Energy Forum, a Labour-focused policy think-tank dedicated to a rapid and just climate transition.
  • The Democracy Collaborative, an American-based organisation engaged in practical and intellectual work to connect community wealth building to system economic transformation, including more democratised forms of ownership, ecological sustainability, and community renewal.
  • Councillor Matthew Brown, Preston City Council, one of the leading figures behind the Preston model.
  • Unison, one of the UK’s largest unions, representing 1.3m members employed in providing public services, including at the local level.
  • The Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) is a not for profit local government body working with councils across the UK to promote excellence in local public service delivery. APSE will be providing independent advice to the Community Wealth Building Unit.
  • The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), a think and do tank dedicated to social justice, good local economies, and effective public services. CLES will be providing independent advice to develop the work of the unit. CLES’ advice is informed by a 10 year local wealth building programme, which has included collaboration within a number of local areas and agencies across the UK – including Preston – and internationally.
  • The Cooperative Party, the political party of the Cooperative movement, which promotes democratic, public ownership.
  • The Centre for Urban Research on Austerity, based at DeMontfort University in Leicester. It looks at government, community and social movement responses to austerity across the world, and facilitates learning and knowledge exchange to develop alternatives.

The conference was hosted in Preston to celebrate the success of the “Preston Model”. The council’s local economic development strategy includes:

  • Becoming the first Living Wage employer in the North of England (in 2012)
  • Setting up a credit union to compete with payday loans companies
  • Persuading six large local public bodies (also known as “anchor institutions”) to commit to buying goods or services locally wherever possible
  • Helping to set up worker cooperatives to provide goods and services to public bodies.
  • In 2013, the six local public bodies spent £38m in Preston and £292m in all of Lancashire. By 2017 these had increased to £111m and £486m respectively, despite an overall reduction in the council’s budget.
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