Community Wealth Building in Preston

(2011 – ongoing) 

CLES has been working with Preston City Council and local anchor institutions throughout the development of the highly acclaimed Preston Model”. Through this work they have successfully challenged conventional approaches to regeneration and economic development.  


  • Preston is the administrative centre of Lancashire. The city grew quickly during the industrial revolution and now shares the characteristics of many post-industrial economies. 
  • Like many places, ithe early 2000s Preston City Council’s approach to economic development focussed on attracting inward investment. Following the financial crisis, when this investment failed to materialise, the city was left with a vacuum in its budget and in the city centre. 
  • Then cabinet member Matthew Brown approached CLES in 2011 after participating in an event with The Democracy Collaborative which explored the community wealth building approach adopted in Cleveland, Ohio. 
  • Since then, Preston has undergone a deep transformation, with the community wealth building approach playing a critical role in improving Preston’s deprivation figures1 and quality of life. A Demos and PwC2 report highlighted Preston as the “Most Improved City in the UK” in 2017. 

Community Wealth Building in Preston 

Influencing local spend

CLES conducted an analysis of the procurement spend of each anchor institution. The analysis figures showed that over the five years since 2012/13, locally retained spend had increased within Preston from 5% to 18.2% and within Lancashire from 39% to 79.2%, representing a rise of £74m in Preston and £200m in Lancashire. The methodology developed by Preston City Council and CLES for this work has now become the standard for understanding the economic impact of anchor institution supply chains.  

Plural ownership of the economy

The Council, the Preston Cooperative Development Network and the University of Central Lancashire are working together to deliver a project to develop the co-operative economy in Preston. With funding from Open Society Foundations (OSF) the two year project, which went live in December 2019, aims to establish a pipeline for 10 new worker co-ops which will each receive start up advice and business support to develop an “ecosystem” in Preston to support the development of a cooperative economy. Central to this ecosystem will be a cooperative education centre in Preston, linked to the Co-operative College, and support and advice from Mondragón in the Basque Country which has a long established co-operative culture which underpins their co-operative economy.

Realising the potential of land, property and assets to unlock fair employment and labour markets

The City Council has been keen to ensure that property development unlocks skills and employment opportunities for local people. The Central Lancashire Skills and Employment Supplementary Planning Document now mandates developers who are applying for planning permission for more than 30 houses and/or 1000m² commercial floorspace to attach a skills and employment plan demonstrating how they will look to provide training/skills and employment opportunities for Lancashire residents.  

Making investments work for local people

Preston City Council have partnered with Lancashire County Council to maximise the social return of public pensions through the Lancashire Local Government Pension Fund. Since 2013, the Pension Fund has allocated £100m for investment in Preston and South Ribble and a further £100m for investment in wider Lancashire. 

The Council are now drawing up plans to establish a Lancashire community bank in partnership with Liverpool and Wirral Councils. A bank of this type would support local SMEs and the reduction of financial and social inequality would be at the heart of its mission.

Living Wage anchor institutions

Preston City Council committed to pay all staff the Living Wage in 2012. Crucially, the Council also took an active role in encouraging local anchor institutions to pay the Living Wage, emphasising the collective role they could play in creating better conditions for all workers 

Champions for community wealth building

Preston City Council and the Preston anchor institutions have already become significant voices within their sectors at championing morelocally focused and diverse commissioning strategies, helping to demonstrate the value of a locally determined approach. In total, 15 European cities have now benefited from support from Preston through the European Union funded Procure and Making Spend Matter projects. 

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