Preston: building a new local economics

new start logoNew Start magazine, which champions urban regeneration that is inclusive, sustainable and socially just, has reported on the work of CLES (Centre for Local Economic Strategies) with Preston City Council. Innovative Quinton councillor John Clancy, who has been to Preston to meet councillors there at a CLES conference, has already tweeted the New Start article.

CLES is exploring how anchor institutions based in the city can bring benefits for the local economy and community.

Anchor institutions are those that – once established – tend not to move location, anchoring the local economy. They may be not-for-personal profit social enterprises, co-operatives, employee-owned and run companies,  or simply local firms with a determined loyalty to their community and workforce ‘family’ (some 2nd generation) – like Professional Polishing in 2007, which refused a highly profitable offshoring opportunity for this reason – resigning from BCC because of their promotion of these policies – and has gone from strength to strength.

cles logoThe starting point was ‘procurement spend’ – seeking to create a collective vision across institutions for undertaking procurement in a way which benefits the local economy. The supply chains of each of the anchor institutions (worth £750m pa) were analysed by CLES in order to identify particular sectors where there are gaps in expenditure in the local economy and where there is scope to influence that ‘spend’ in the future.

There were two broad objectives:

  • to analyse the extent to which anchor institutions already spend with suppliers based in the Preston and Lancashire economies and whether there is potential to repatriate some of that spend;
  • to identify whether there are any particular services used by anchor institutions which would lend themselves to future delivery by local worker-led co-operatives.

Analysing the procurement spend of six anchor institutions with their top 300 suppliers – some £750m – the research found that only 5% of their collective spend was with Preston organisations and 39% was spent with organisations based in Lancashire. £488m was effectively leaking out of Lancashire each year.

Preston skyline
Preston skyline

The findings of the supply chain analysis have prompted anchor institutions to ensure procurement spending reaps greater local economic and community reward. Local organisation Community Gateway, for instance, now asks suppliers to show the local economic multiplier effect of the delivery of its capital and maintenance projects.

Preston Council has identified local organisations in those sectors which could bid for and deliver those services in the future.

Lancashire Council has reframed its procurement practices so that there is greater emphasis on economic and social value.

Postscript: other initiatives

  • Living Wage – Preston City Council has been a Living Wage employer since 2009. It seeks to ensure other organisations across the public, commercial and social economies pay their own employees. The principle of the activity links to community wealth in that it seeks to provide a fair level of pay for Preston residents and also ensure the circulation of income within the local economy.
  • Move your Money – Preston City Council has become part of the Move your Money campaign. This seeks to encourage communities to bank in a more ethical way. The Council has also helped establish a new credit union (‘Guildmoney).

• Guild co-operative network – the council and its Social Forum supports worker led co-operatives and encourages other anchor institutions to utilise local co-operatives, most of which are engaged in front line provision.


Three vital advantages of municipal utilities

bob massie president new economics instituteBob Massie of America’s New Economics Institute sent news today that voters in Boulder, Colorado, have ended their relationship with Xcel Energy, a utility with $10.7 billion in revenues, clearing the way for the city to form its own municipal utility that would lower rates and make greater use of renewable energy.

The city’s ‘multiple pleas’ for more clean wind and solar power had been turned down by Xcel which then financed a new coal power plant.

boulder cycle demo

During a vigorous campaign that attracted national attention, corporate executives and their allies mounted a well-funded operation, arguing that the city had neither the money nor the expertise to manage such a complex enterprise.

boulder graphicAdvocates for the municipal utility, including the New Era Colorado Foundation, fought back with a successful crowd-funding campaign, attracting public attention with imaginative activities.

There are 1000 municipal utilities in the United States, serving 50 million customers. Most  are owned by cities, and controlled by panels of local citizens. Some are cooperatives owned by their members.

boulder john farrellJohn Farrell, who directs the Energy Self-Reliant States and Communities program at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, points out that if the city moves ahead, it would capture nearly $100 million currently spent on electricity imports and create up to $350 million in local economic development by dramatically increasing local clean energy production.

Proponents of change have argued that public control creates three vital benefits:

  • First, decisions are made not by distant corporate managers whose first priority is to generate returns for absentee shareholders or to pay enormous salaries for executives, but by managers who are accountable to the community.
  • Second, because of this, municipal utilities can focus on important local goals, such as investing in renewable energy, efficiency, and other factors that increase community resilience.
  • And finally, the rates of municipal utilities are traditionally lower than their counterparts, and they channel any financial surplus — also known as profit — back into the community.

 boulder poster

Massie comments: “The entire model of a corporate utility operating a centralized grid is facing steady erosion. Universities and cities across the country are expressing their desire to move away from both hiring — or even owning stocks — in companies that remain committed to fossil fuels. In addition, every family who installs solar on their roof not only slashes their need for energy from a utility, but also cuts the revenue for those same firms.”


lessons from Cleveland’s Evergreen Co-operatives – open meeting 26 Feb

From what I’ve heard about the Evergreen Co-ops this will be a really interesting event for anyone interested in practical steps towards a more just and sustainable economy. I’ll certainly be there.
The Birmingham Co-operative Party invites you to an open meeting:

Re-building local economies:

Learning lessons from the Evergreen Co-operatives
in Cleveland Ohio
One of the worrying trends of recent decades – accelerated during the current recession – has been the collapse of local economies, particularly in traditional manufacturing areas such as the Midlands and the North of the UK.

This problem is not limited to the UK and this meeting will be exploring what lessons can be learned from an innovative experiment in Cleveland Ohio which is successfully creating secure well-paid jobs by developing a network of local co-operative enteprises to serve city institutions such as the hospital, university and local council.


Jim Pettipher
Deputy Executive Director, Co-operative Futures

7.35pm, Tuesday 26th February

A light buffet will be served from 6.30pm


Midlands Co-operative Member Relations Centre,
Birmingham & Midland Institute,
Margaret St, Birmingham, B3 3BS

All Welcome!

For catering purposes, please confirm your attendance by email to richardbickle [at]

Energysaving Co-op launch, Weds 21st Sept 7pm

Just a last minute promotion for the launch of the new Energysaving Co-op. Please let John know if you are planning to attend!

Midlands Co-operative Society Member Relations and Localise West Midlands would like to introduce: The UK’s most exciting new Co-op –  The energy saving co-operative

Energysaving co-op logoThe energy saving co-operative provides households and communities with a Fair Green Deal

  • helping them share the benefits from the government Green Deal, RHI and FiT schemes
  • Providing a one-stop energy saving service
  • Reducing/eliminating the up-front costs of energy saving

It will launch from autumn 2012 – before then, it is piloting and lobbying for a fairer Green Deal for all

Now, The energy saving co-operative wants to meet:

  • Community groups looking to save energy in their communities
  • Local businesses wanting to help deliver energy-saving improvements, or establish worker co-ops to do so

Member Relations  wants to invite you to an evening with the Co-op! Refreshments, co-operative; locally produced; Fairtrade.

When: 7 for 7:30 pm, Wednesday 21 September

Where: Member Relations Centre B.M.I. Margaret Street, Birmingham  B3 3BS Contact: John Boyle, 0121 233 1545,

Setting up locally owned and run pubs and shops

Co-operative and Community Finance has pledged to provide up to £2m of new loans to help 50 communities set up and run their local pubs. 

A new programme – led by the Plunkett Foundation – will provide grants to communities matched with loans from Co-operative & Community Finance and a contribution from the communities themselves. The programme will also provide a range of advice and support to communities to help them through the process of setting up a community-owned pub. 

Co‑operative & Community Finance has been working with the Plunkett Foundation for three years on a similar support programme for community-owned shops. 

Regional examples 

The Birmingham Post reported that village residents have opened shops in Yarpole, Herefordshire; Cleeve Prior, Worcestershire and Long Marston and Barford in Warwickshire. A local group in Wigmore, Herefordshire, set up a shop as part of a scheme to cut down on carbon emissions; it proved a huge success, with business doubling in the six months since it was opened. 

People living in Claverdon, Warwickshire, set up a co-operative village shop to replace one that closed because of economic pressures. Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham, whose wife volunteers at the shop, said: “Village shops are at the very heart of communities and we must make sure they stay that way.” 

Community-ownership is already working for the 233 village shops now being run as co-operatives and it is hoped that some of the 40 pubs closing down each week will be saved, as communities come together and buy their pubs as community assets.