Building an inclusive economy in Kirklees: the movement continues…

Neil McInroy, Chief Executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies & Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council

Image: Richard Harvey

Kirklees Council and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) have begun work to develop a more inclusive local economy through a new approach to economic development, ‘local wealth building’. In so doing, the Council joins a progressive movement of local authorities using this approach from Barcelona and Bologna to Preston and Salford.

Local wealth building’ aims to reorganise the local economy so that wealth is broadly held, with local roots, and where benefits are recirculated.  The local wealth building movement, of which CLES are at the forefront, seeks to provide resilience where there is risk, local economic security where there is precarity, and to ensure opportunity, dignity and well-being for all.  A key part of this is how established organisations (‘anchors’), from local hospitals and manufacturers to local authorities, can use their assets, employment practices, and spend to improve local economic and social we-llbeing. Through local supply-chains and responsible employment and asset-management practices, these organisations are partners in reshaping local places and empowering local people for a more inclusive economy.

Over the last 12 years, CLES have worked with a number of local authorities and wider anchor institutions such as universities, housing associations, and the NHS, to undertake wealth building activities. These activities have helped to boost local jobs and reduce deprivation in places such as Manchester and Preston. Over a five-year period, Preston saw local spend and investment increase by £70m in the city and by £200m in the wider Lancashire area. CLES are delighted to be now collaborating with Kirklees Council and other anchors in the area to make an inclusive economy a reality.

In Kirklees, where parts of the district are in the top 10% most deprived areas in the country, we have been looking at ways of boosting and improving the social, economic, and environmental impact of the Council’s activities and decisions, including local supply chains and asset-management. As well as extensive greenspace, Kirklees benefits from a strong local manufacturing industry and has renowned strengths in precision engineering and textiles.

In the recent local elections, the Labour leadership committed to empowering and enabling communities and partners, improving local employment, and to creating the conditions in which local democracy will thrive. The work with CLES will help deliver the manifesto’s vision and ties into the Kirklees Democracy Commission’s ongoing work with local businesses to develop the idea of ‘Business Citizenship’ and deliver an Active Citizens Strategy. The work with CLES will aspire to address:

  1. Spend and procurement – increasing local social and economic impact;
  2. Employment – delivering high quality, local employment with a real living wage;
  3. Assets – ensuring assets, land value, property, and investments benefit the local economy; and
  4. Democracy – identifying opportunities for greater democratic ownership through local cooperatives and setting up or supporting community banking and local energy companies.

The work with anchor institutions in Kirklees has begun and the council are very positive to be embarking on this progressive programme of work with CLES, which will undoubtedly further a more inclusive local economy and help inform the inclusive growth agenda.  It will support the growth of local business, community groups, and the voluntary sector across the district, as well as helping to improve the well-being of our residents by tackling deprivation and inequalities, where it exists, in our communities.