London boroughs drive forward progressive interventions in new municipalism  

Three London boroughs are tackling wealth extraction and extreme inequality in their local areas through a series of progressive interventions in new municipalism, according to a new publication due to be released on Tuesday 9th March by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES).

London is the fifth wealthiest city in the world by GDP and recent decades has seen staggering new levels of investment and wealth, yet 27% of its citizens live in poverty and homelessness continues to rise. In the London Borough of Islington, a quarter of children live in poverty.

Arguing that cities feel less like democratic places where citizens can all live a prosperous life, and more like places in which the rich and powerful can dominate, enclose, and own, authors of New Municipalism in London, highlight the actions of three London Boroughs who are seeking to challenge traditional local economic development and return power to their citizens.

The new publication outlines how the London Boroughs of Islington, Hackney and Camden are responding to this ‘age of inequality’, by taking inspiration from the international new municipalist movement.

According to the authors, new municipalism in the UK context is about a redistribution of power, the local state using its own municipal power, and a bold rethinking of local economic development. They describe new municipalism as a fightback against the extraction of wealth and power, that demands a restoration of the rights to the towns, cities and the commons for all.

Neil McInroy, CLES Chief Executive said: “new municipalism is about big shifts in how we think about power, decision-making and ownership in our societies, and provides a new frame within which local authorities can work with citizens to take back economic and social control of local places. It is a global movement emerging in places around the world, and CLES is proud to be collaborating with many councils across London and the UK on this new agenda.

This new publication celebrates the innovative work of three London boroughs in driving this agenda forward through policies such as tackling the gentrification juggernaut, insourcing, and restoring public values in public service. It also emphasises how there is still much more to do, and where we must go next to drive social, economic, and environmental justice at the local level.’

Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said: “At the heart of our efforts to make Islington a fairer place for all has been a commitment to pursuing an unashamedly interventionist approach to ‘new municipalism’ over the last decade. By rejecting market orthodoxies and pursuing an interventionist approach, we have demonstrated that municipal services and programmes can make a real difference to the lives of working people, and are central to re-building an economy with social justice at its core. From bringing services back ‘in-house’ and building more new council homes in the borough than at any time in the last 30 years, to creating genuinely affordable workspaces for local start-ups and embedding a commitment to achieving social value across everything the Council does, our approach has been about changing the rules of the game to benefit working people again.”

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, said: ‘Hackney’s new municipalism is about bridging the gap between our expanding local economy and residents, as well as empowering our communities and recognising their strength to tackle growing inequality. Hackney is changing, and change has brought huge opportunities to our borough ─ a revolution in transport links, jobs and opportunities ─ but too many of our residents feel left behind. From a return to our municipal foundations through Hackney’s ambitious green energy plans, to community wealth building and a renewed commitment to insourcing, we are taking action to challenge market and national policy failures. I am delighted to have worked with CLES on this cross-borough pamphlet, which explores how our interventionist approaches are very much part of a new global movement, but which closer to home will help us build a fairer, safer and more sustainable borough.”

Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, said: ‘New municipalism represents the best of local government: a commitment to place the communities we serve at the heart of everything we do. This volume celebrates a return to the proud traditions of civic radicalism for which Camden is famous. It outlines a bold, place-based programme for change, providing a powerful counterbalance to the language of Whitehall austerity. In Camden, we are determined to build on this agenda. Tackling the inequality we see around us is the reason I got into politics and stands at the core of our public service mission as a Council. Here we show how Camden is rising to the challenge, harnessing our resources to share power and create social value, delivering housing, jobs, and opportunities for our citizens’.

Read the full report.