Community Wealth Building in Islington

(2018 – ongoing)

Since 2018, CLES has given strategic advice on Islington Council’s approach to community wealth building. In recent years, this work has evolved and the Council now adopts an interventionist approach to economic development that prioritises harnessing resources to generate wealth for local residents and build an inclusive local economy.


  • Islington is one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, yet a quarter of children live in poverty.
  • The Borough’s tech, digital and design-led sectors have flourished in recent years, but this growth 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.
  • To counter this, the Council have put in place a number of measures to support “the grass roots economy”.

Community wealth building in Islington

Centring local people in economic development

A significant proportion of economic development activity in Islington is focused on “the grass roots economy”. Individual local economic strategies have been developed for each area within the Borough, with local economy officers in each of these key localities.

Working with grassroots organisations, often excluded from the economy, the Council has engaged new groups in employment and skills programmes. For example, officers supported the establishment of a local sewing and garment making network, developed members’ confidence and offered accredited training, meaning they will be in a position to fully participate in the Council’s garment production workspace.

Diversifying models of business ownership

The Council is also focussed on diversifying ownership models within the Islington economy. They have commissioned a social enterprise business support hub and have also founded a co-operative development agency to grow co-operatives in foundational sectors such as social care and childcare.

Supporting local enterprise

The Council recognised that small businesses were increasingly being priced out of the Borough by high property costs, with the long-term impacts of Covid-19 adding significant hardship for many local enterprises. to counter this, they developed a pioneering strategy to create new workspaces that are genuinely accessible and affordable to local businesses and organisations. To do so, they have appointed affordable workspace operators to run the spaces they have acquired through requirements placed on developers. In a UK first, social value is embedded in the operator contracts, with spaces offered to providers at a peppercorn rent. In lieu of paying market rates, operators are expected to demonstrate that they have created long-term benefits for local people and businesses by delivering a range of services. By providing workspaces of various sizes across the Borough, the Council have delivered over £1.24m equivalent of social value output up until March 2022.

Insourcing services

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.

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.

In-house employment support

To support employment within the Borough, the Council has established its own employment service providing targeted job search, application and tailored CV writing support, interview practice, as well as discretionary payments and childcare and pastoral support. The service provides support by telephone and on-line and this wraparound service has become a key resource to which local economy officers can direct residents when they are out in the community.

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