Community Wealth Building in Islington

(2018 – ongoing)

CLES has been working with Islington London Borough Council, providing strategic advice on its approach to progressive procurement.

The Council has adopted an interventionist approach to economic development that prioritises harnessing its purchasing power, land and asset stock, and financial resources to generate wealth for local residents and build an inclusive local economy.  Over the last 8 years, it has had a strong track record in developing its ‘new municipalist’ approach putting social justice and fairness at the core of this economic agenda.

Context

  • Islington is one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, yet a quarter of children live in poverty.
  • Islington’s “Tech City” has flourished in recent years, but economic growth led by local tech, digital and design-led sectors has not “trickled-down” into positive economic outcomes for local residents. Further, the benefits of growth in these particular sectors tend to exclude BAME communities and working-class residents.
  • In response to the financialization of the local property market and increasing social exclusion in booming sectors, Islington Council committed to building an inclusive economy and reducing inequality in the borough.

This has been led by Councillor Asima Shaikh, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economy and Jobs, a key early adopter of community wealth building.

Community wealth building in Islington

Insourced £380m worth of services

Islington’s insourcing efforts and progressive procurement policy demonstrate how local authorities can shape services and contracts to achieve a more inclusive economy. From refuse collection to housing maintenance, cleaning and temporary accommodation, the Council has insourced a variety of public services. This has helped 1,200 frontline staff receive the London Living Wage, improved job quality and working conditions, secured anti-blacklisting protection on contracts, improved democratic oversight of key services and contributed to higher levels of resident satisfaction.

Adopted an affordable workplace strategy

Islington’s financialised property market means space is in high demand, with rising land values and rents locking out office space for local businesses. Consequently, the Council leases office space from developers at peppercorn rents, to then be managed by a variety of affordable workspace providers. Instead of charging these providers rent, the Council uses a pioneering social value framework to ensure these workspaces benefit local people and businesses, by providing employment and skills training, careers support to local schools, and incubating start-ups in the cooperative and social enterprise sectors. The Council has entered into a close partnership with the digital worker cooperative Outlandish, to support the creation of worker owned and controlled businesses in the borough, as well as to increase access of black and minority ethnic and women residents into the tech and digital sectors.

Developed a community-led model to economic development

The Council is committed to the centrality of local people to its economic development.  Working with grassroots organisations, often excluded from the economy, the Council has engaged new groups in employment and skills programmes.  A good example of this, is establishing a local sewing and garment making network, developing their confidence and offering accredited training, so that they will be in a position to fully participate in the Council’s garment production workspace, to open in 2021.

Challenging developer-led approaches to regeneration

The Council has been challenging gentrification in the borough by requiring property developers to build 50% affordable housing on new developments. By developing robust evidence-based planning policies and defending this stance against viability assessments in court, Islington has delivered 2,500 new genuinely affordable homes, including the largest council house building programme in the borough for over 30 years.

Social value as a tool to build an inclusive economy

Islington’s commitment to social value in procurement has started to produce real outcomes for local businesses and residents, helping to drive corporate priorities as the cornerstone of the Council’s community wealth building approach. Islington has a weighting that is successfully securing social value outcomes, and they are currently reviewing how to build a locally ‘virtuous’ supply chain, as a core part of its business development programme.


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