Opinion Piece - Blog

Local government at the heart of a just transition

As the energy price cap rises today, CLES Senior Researcher, Ellie Radcliffe, reflects on her recent visit to the Apse Big Energy Summit and considers the role of local authorities in balancing climate and economic justice.

Nearly three years since three hundred local authorities began to declare climate emergencies, the removal of the energy price cap today arrives as the Big Six energy companies have recorded over a billion pounds of profits. This is just part of the picture, with oil and gas giants BP and Shell spending over £147 billion in stock buybacks and shareholder dividends since 2010 – seven times more than what would be needed to keep households’ energy bills at a manageable level.
“we need an approach to decarbonisation which changes the fundamental building blocks of economies”
Such profiteering hits to the heart of why we need an approach to decarbonisation which changes the fundamental building blocks of economies, making them work for ordinary people and our places, as well as the planet. At CLES, we advocate for community wealth building as a pathway towards this just transition, with local government at its heart.

Anchor networks sow the seeds of change

This article originally appeared in the HSJ.

Recent months have seen an increased interest in anchor institution networks, whereby NHS institutions and partners – like local authorities, universities, housing associations and the VCSE sector – collaborate to develop solutions to local social and economic problems. At CLES we work with and support many of these networks and, as this interest fuels an increase in activity, we are observing how these collaborations are not simply firefighting problems as they arise but also feeding into a more fundamental change in how anchor institutions view their role in the local economy.

In my role as Co-ordinator for the Birmingham Anchor Network I have been privileged to observe this process in action. This time last year the Network launched its pilot Hospitality to Health employment programme, as a response to an urgent employment crisis being faced by two of its members. Housing association, Pioneer Housing Group, were concerned about the number of their residents at risk of redundancy from a hospitality sector reeling from the effects of Covid-19, while at the same time University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust needed to recruit significant numbers of staff at entry level positions to support in responding to the pandemic.

Anchoring our ports

This article originally appeared in the LGC.

The government’s new freeports are likely to extract wealth and opportunity from local communities, but there is an alternative, writes Sean Benstead.

At this year’s spring budget, the government announced the creation of eight freeports across England to promote regional regeneration, create high-skilled jobs and ensure sustainable economic growth.

Social care needs proper funding, not Big Society 2.0

This article originally appeared in The New Statesman.

The language of “community power” is too often used to paper over the cracks of ten years of local austerity, writes Associate Director for Policy, Tom Lloyd Goodwin.

“The Conservatives are the real party of public services.” This was one of the many bold claims from the dispatch box during this year’s autumn spending review. But in the wake of the now-published adult social care reform white paper, this promise rings increasingly hollow.

Buying benefits for communities

This article originally appeared in The MJ.

The everyday activities of local anchor institutions present numerous opportunities to advance social value. Whether it’s a local authority commissioning a new homecare service or the use of targeted pre-employment training programmes by the NHS, these practices can be used to generate wider social, economic and environmental outcomes for people, place and planet.

Social value and public expenditure

Social value has traditionally been associated with procurement activity and the use of social value frameworks. Over the last 18 months, however, the Government has published a raft of procurement policy notices, which encourage the adoption of more progressive practice to support local economies and enable more SMEs and social businesses to enter public sector supply chains. This guidance was reaffirmed and strengthened within last year’s procurement green paper and, following public consultation, the publication of the Government’s new Procurement Bill is now imminent.

Raising Council Tax won’t fix local government

This article originally appeared in Tribune.

A decade of austerity has decimated local authority funding and left many councils in crisis – but hiking regressive Council Tax isn’t a real solution. Ahead of the today’s budget statement, CLES’s Rachel Bentley and Victoria Bettany have written for Tribune explaining why.

This week’s Budget will be make or break for councils across the UK. It’s set to be a true test of whether the government really cares about the poorest in our society, or whether it’s content to continue passing off responsibility entirely to local authorities, whose capacity to help has been diminished by a decade of austerity.

NHS: supporting those furthest from the labour market  

This article first appeared in the HSJ.

NHS trusts and health boards should take the lead in deploying progressive employment interventions at local level, which can be used to leverage employment opportunities towards people who are farthest from the jobs market, write Tom Lloyd Goodwin and David Burch.

Despite the claim that unemployment has now peaked, and reports of record vacancies in some sectors, 1.6 million people face uncertainty in the workplace as the furlough scheme comes to an end in the UK. In this context, increased youth unemployment is predicted to be a painful hangover from Covid-19 in the UK as we undergo wider economic recovery.

Lay the foundations of social, economic and climate justice

This article originally appeared in the LGC.

In recognition of today’s Global Climate Strike and Fridays for Future’s demand for intersectional climate justice, CLES’s Ellie Radcliffe explores the role of local authorities in the UK in delivering a future where people and planet are jointly prioritized.

Since the autumn of 2018 – when Bristol City Council became the first – no less than 319 of the UK’s local authorities have declared a climate emergency. However, while committing to tackling the climate crisis is an important step, ultimately actions speak louder than words.

Covid-19, Brexit and a reconfiguration of public spend

This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle

The context around public expenditure is changing dramatically. With the continued impact of Covid-19 and with the UK no longer subject to European procurement law both opportunities and sticking points are cast into sharp relief. Will the government continue with a system that seems to advance “cronyism” and wealth extraction, or will new process and legislation be used to promote the idea that the public pound must always be used wisely and well – flowing through our economy in the pursuit of social, economic and ecological justice?

Over the course of the last year, the government has published a raft of procurement policy notices, both in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union. These notices apply to local authorities, NHS bodies and the wider public sector.

To make the change, be the change

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, CLES researcher Eleanor Radcliffe shares her thoughts on the lot of women in the time of Covid-19, representation in local government and the seeds of hope to be found in new approaches.

A lot has changed since International Women’s Day 2020, but sadly not much for the better. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened the inequalities already present within our economy, disproportionately impacting women. Worse yet, not everyone has fared equally. The poorest, disabled, lone parents, young, and black and minority ethnic women have been particularly negatively affected. The impact for working mothers has been significant, with the realities of home working compounded by the challenges of home school and providing more unpaid care. Mothers have spent two-thirds more time on childcare than fathers, and those on the lowest incomes are nine times more at risk of losing jobs due to school closures. Our society is reversing progress on the emancipation of women and non-binary people, and to make the change we need in these areas, we need to be the change.
“the budget did little to truly tackle the systemic inequalities which affect women”
The government’s spring budget was an opportunity to begin to address the disproportionate impact on women as a result of the pandemic. However, as the Women’s Budget Group have examined in depth, the budget did little to truly tackle the systemic inequalities which affect women. These include the questions of:

Health institutions as “anchors”: unlocking the potential within the NHS

This article originally appeared in the Health Service Journal.

The NHS is not just a service that provides healthcare free at the point of need. It is a social contract with the British people to deliver well-being.

Across its wide range of services, the NHS’s mission extends beyond making us better when we are ill, it is also about making sure we do not fall ill in the first place – playing a key part in addressing the wider social, economic and environmental determinants of health.

Reflections on the Community Wealth Building Summit

Back in the office at the start of a new week, the CLES team is fired with an enthusiasm that only comes with successfully bringing 200 dedicated activists and changemakers together. As we push on to drive further actions and outcomes, the team has taken some time to offer three quick-fire reflections of our own from the day about what #cwbis to us…

Rebuilding the local economy in Britain’s Seaside Towns

If ever there was an example that epitomises the misery imposed by market neo-liberalism, it’s the plight of Britain’s seaside towns.

Decades of agglomeration has led to the incubation of ‘superstar cities’ such as Manchester, leaving places like Blackpool and Rhyl deprived and depleted. As CLES reported on in 2017,  the last vestiges of their seaside heritage are now enveloped by a coil of ever-tightening social and economic decline.

Realising the potential for community business and anchor institutions

Community businesses are key drivers of the local economy and a growing aspect of Local Wealth Building. They are a key means of ensuring that wealth is more readily held, used and benefits local people and communities.

Vital to this is the extent to which community businesses are woven into the supply chains of anchor institutions. Work by CLES in three locations has found that community businesses are building local wealth and it is now time to celebrate, secure and amplify their full potential within the supply chain of anchor institutions.