Localising Prosperity – a short film

We are delighted to launch our new Localising Prosperity video – a seven-minute film exploring better ways to do economics.

Through four projects that exemplify aspects of the Localising Prosperity approach our film shows how we can create an economy which is lively and diverse, meets local needs with local resources, & in which more people have a stake.

Our thanks to all the contributors involved in making this film (see more below). Please share it widely!

Thanks also to our film-maker, Susan Jones of Redhead Business Films and to our funder the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

In such a short film we’ve not had space to fully describe the featured projects and who is behind each of them, so here’s a quick round-up and some useful links:

The New Hospital: anchoring prosperity in the community

This is about ensuring “anchor institutions’ like Sandwell & Birmingham’s new hospital (leaving aside current concerns about Carillion!*) has the maximum positive impact on local people, by ensuring that retail options, procurement and related services are locally sourced and employ locally wherever possible. The organisations working on this – Sandwell Council, Citizen Home, Localise West Midlands and Smethwick CAN amongst others – are proposing that one of the hospital’s retail units is taken by a social enterprise shop  that could not only sell locally produced goods but act as a “concierge” type service for busy staff and visiting families, to access the services they need from local businesses.

Thanks to Conrad Parke, Martin Hogg, Karen McCarthy for appearances in this one.

*UPDATE: although the Carillion failure means a new developer will need to be found for the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, the work of the USE-IT! project in Ladywood, Soho and Smethwick will continue, as it relates to those areas rather than the hospital itself.  For anyone directly affected, there is advice here, a general helpline 0800 063 9282 and a helpline for Black Country businesses: 01902 912322.

Inclusive business support ecosystems in Balsall Heath

Citizens UK and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Enterpreneurship have been working together with business people in Lozells, Small Heath and Sparkbrook to achieve better engagement with support agencies, aiming to generate an inclusive business support ecosystem in these areas. Nayer’s jewellery business is one of those involved. Thanks to Moses Dakurivosa and Nayer Khan-Farrukh for contributing here.

Energy Capital – local business innovation for social good

Headed by Matthew Rhodes, Energy Capital is about collaborative sector development, in which energy innovation delivers on the needs of real people and the environment, and policy shifts support it to do so, with locally owned businesses  involved at every level. RentE Cars is on of the local businesses that is ‘driving’ (forgive the pun) and taking advantage of electric car charging innovations. As well as Matthew we are grateful to Rob Jolly and Waqar Bukhari for taking part in this one.

Social care: an opportunity for inclusive economics?

Our final case study is about how social care, rather than being a problem, can be a positive force for inclusive economics that could help the West Midlands Combined Authority achieve its stated aims of sharing prosperity more widely – as a report by NEF for LWM outlines. The “foundational economy” is made up of the things society really needs, social care being one, and deserves a closer economic focus. Built around adaptable, small scale and community enterprises, social care may not provide conventional ‘growth’ but could have a huge impact on local jobs in places where they are needed, providing something we all need and care about. Crossroads Care is an example of a locally accountable and adaptable enterprise delivering care and economic opportunity. Our thanks to Christine Christie, Graham Evans, Carol Glover and her mum, and Joanne Ferguson for their time.

Together these stories show some of the ways that communities can have greater economic power and prosperity.

If you’re interested in our approach try our Localising Prosperity webpages for more information.

Karen Leach



Now let’s have a proper dialogue on our cities’ governance

OK, so we – and all other places except Bristol – voted not to switch to an elected mayor. According to some Yes campaigners – whether through naivety or pique is I’m not sure – we will never have another chance to change.

Even leaving aside the fact that governments like to fiddle with local governance on a fairly regular basis and that political change does happen within cities, I just don’t quite get this.  If we had voted for an elected mayor, we would have an elected mayor whom wouldn’t be able to abolish without an Act of Parliament, and we might well get stuck into a similar Boris/Ken/Boris/Ken (or should that be Boris/Boris) rut as London – the novelty would wear off. Yes, there would have been positives, of course, but – last chance to change anything? Almost more the opposite. Having said no, we have more options.

While it looks likely to have had some benefits, the model we were offered was fundamentally flawed, and so was the way in which it was pushed upon us. With fairly typical arrogance, the Government never felt the need to give voters much clue as to what powers might be achievable, and never even bothered to provide information on the implications of the different systems where ordinary voters could find it (and in Birmingham neither did the council nor the campaigns). Even the day before the referendum, there was nothing on CLG’s website that told you how the system would be different under a mayor – leaving people to assume that the most alarmist ‘dictator’ version of events could be entirely true.

Meanwhile in fairly desperate economic times, the nod-wink offer of extra powers if we complied exactly with the Government’s plans for us, and never mind that this locked us out of BOTH the two other systems on offer let alone of negotiating change on our own terms – sounded to local people like blackmail; like offering an impoverished household a doorstep loan – they’ll explain the interest rates when you’ve signed on the dotted line, thank you.

As Chris Game presciently hinted in the Birmingham Post a few days ago, the Coalition could not have made it more compelling for the city’s population to vote ‘no’ if they had tried.

Now the referendum is behind us. Disappointed ‘Yes’ campaigners will, I’m sure, still want to see change. All the ‘No’ campaigners I know are deeply unhappy with the status quo and want to see change (just not government-bullied, ill-thought-through, power-concentrating change.) So would it not be better, rather than lamenting that we didn’t accept what was on offer with blind faith, to take the initiative, capitalise on the passion of people on both sides and begin dialogue on progressive politics for our area on our terms – and with better informed populations taking the decision?

For one thing, the city is still capable of re-running a referendum on elected mayors. This would be vastly improved by making more information available to voters on what they are voting for (or against). But better, we can investigate the potential for strategic collaboration – mayoral or otherwise – across local authority boundaries, leaving local authorities’ democracies intact, and push for a conurbation-sized city deal. Greater Manchester offers us one model. We can also press for urban parish or community councils. We can investigate the potential for citizen-led economic development programmes such as are successful in creating socially beneficial economies many parts of Canada and America, to balance the economically centralist drivers of LEPs. We should certainly discuss how local governance can get the best balance between diverse and decentralised representative democracy, efficient decision-making, transparency and resilience to vested interests. There may well be new Birmingham councillors keen to see change and willing to talk about new ideas.

One last point – if there had been a Yes vote, I would have written something very similar. Just as voting No is not a victory against Government bullying because change is still needed, Mayors would never have been a panacea. Whatever the outcome and however you feel about it, the referendum was only ever another beginning of another dialogue.

Karen Leach