The fight for progressive economics continues


This national election was bitterly fought, clear choices were presented and the country has delivered a decisive verdict.

The crises we face are huge and the stakes are massively high. Communities across the UK are suffering deep social pain, economic failure, and a climate crisis. All major parties campaigned on a message of change – it is now up to the new government to deliver.

For decades, CLES has called for a fundamental transformation of Britain’s local economies for greater social, economic, and environmental justice. We do this work at the local level not simply because the local matters in of itself, but also because strong progressive policies here can start to shift the dial and lay the foundations for change across the board.

“the hard work of building progressive local economies must always continue, no matter who is in power in Westminster”

That is why the hard work of building progressive local economies must always continue, no matter who is in power in Westminster or how receptive they are to our agenda. The interconnected crises of wealth, power, public services, and climate will always require local responses, and we must continue to advance the progressive ideas that we know can begin to chip away at the failures of the current system.

As set out in the CLES manifesto, we now call on the new government to provide local administrations the space needed to pursue progressive policies in their places:

“our work on community wealth building with progressive municipalities must continue apace”

Wealth. The notion that wealth will trickle down should be consigned to history once and for all. Fuelling the election result was an acknowledgement by many that they – and the local economies in which they live – have too little wealth and that wealth is spatially and socially concentrated. In this, our work on community wealth building with progressive municipalities must continue apace. The new government must acknowledge that wealth is the defining feature of all economies, and that neoliberal economics is a busted flush. We must continue to build local economies where wealth is harnessed and works for all.

Power. The UK is over-centralised and economically unbalanced. The election results, whilst delivering a majority government, will be governing a country that is even more deeply divided than ever. This obviously relates to Scotland and Northern Ireland, but now also Wales and England. The signs are that the new government will splurge cash on regional ideas and brands such as the Northern Powerhouse or the Midlands Engine. But the reality is that we need a clear constitutional reset for the whole of the UK, including – in England – a much firmer direction to this devolution. The government needs to truly turn the tide on these deeply divided nations and our local authorities and devolved administrations must be bullish in not just accepting cash handouts, but instead demanding real power.

“Public services are in crisis. The electorate expects.”

Public services. They are in crisis. During the election all parties acknowledged this by offering increases in public spending. The electorate expects. Promises made during the campaign must be delivered. But it will not be enough to simply ’end austerity’; instead we need to return to a meaningful appreciation that public services are the bedrock to a decent society and the platform for a post Brexit economic and social success. A comprehensive reversal of austerity should be seen as a key plank of how we mend this broken country. At the local level we need our local areas to build a new social contract, on the back of a fillip to devolution.

Climate crisis. The election focused far too little on this most important of all issues. The scale of the climate emergency demands that much work will need to take place at a national and even global level. However, it is imperative that we also develop the role that local and regional government plays. Across our local industrial strategies and public services, we must create a series of local green new deals. Our great city regions should lay out not only how they seek to reach their zero carbon targets, but how they will make the industrial and service transformation required.

The electorate made a big decision yesterday, but politics does not start and end in Westminster. We have more than one parliament and sites of democracy in our four nations. Across the UK, communities are experimenting with real alternatives because they know that our political economy is fundamentally broken. CLES knows that the policies we are fighting for deliver for communities, and that – no matter who sits in Whitehall – the hard work must continue.

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