The Preston model: UK takes lessons in recovery from rust-belt Cleveland
“The system wasn’t working,” says Matthew Brown, Preston cabinet member for social justice, inclusion and policy – and the driving force behind many of the recent transformations at the council. “Something had to change.”
So in 2013, the council employed a thinktank, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), to help identify 12 large institutions anchored to Preston, including the city and the county council, the university, the police and the hospital. It looked at redirecting the £1.2bn total annual spending power of these anchors to local businesses. Preston city council has since spent an additional £4m locally, from 14% of its budget in 2012 to 28% in 2016.
Preston, like any city, has its own particular challenges that mean a straight transplant of the Cleveland model is impossible. So CLES adapted it. Rather than creating co-operatives from scratch, Neil McInroy, CLES chief executive, says they sought existing business that could win contracts, such as a £600,000 printing contract tendered by the constabulary and a £1.6m council food budget, which was broken into lots and awarded to farmers in the region.