Newham: at the forefront of community wealth building

Today CLES Associate Director, Frances Jones, spoke alongside the Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, at the launch of Newham Council’s Community Wealth Building Strategy. CLES has been working with the Council over the last year to develop this pioneering approach, which utilises community wealth building as a means to tackle poverty and racial and gender inequality, respond to the climate emergency and build participatory democracy.

Newham Council joins a growing number of local authorities who are putting community wealth building at the heart of their organisational strategy – utilising their spending power, land, property and financial assets to shape socially just local economies.

Over the last eight years we’ve seen a huge growth in the take up of community wealth building across the UK, with more than 12% of the population now living in areas where local anchor institutions are taking a community wealth building approach. Within this movement, local authorities like Newham are leading the way, demonstrating that community wealth building is not a one-off initiative but a fundamental rethinking of the role that public sector bodies play in local economies.

“Newham’s community wealth building strategy demonstrates the relevance and applicability of community wealth building to high growth cities.”

At its core, community wealth building aims to reorganise local economies so that the wealth that is generated by local people is both owned by and used to benefit those people and their place. In Newham, the challenge is stark: over the last four years rents have risen 47%; one in 25 of residents are homeless (the highest in London); and while wages have risen 9%, one third of Newham’s workers are paid poverty wages. While much conventional economic development does little to address and, in many cases, exacerbates these problems, community wealth building tackles them head on.

“Newham joins New York and Barcelona as well as Islington and Preston on the roster of global places employing community wealth building tactics to build socially just local economies.”

Community wealth building will now sit at the heart of Newham’s activities, from the remunicipalisation of public services, to the expansion of social housing, to how the Council deals with landmark regeneration projects on the Olympic Park and Royal Docks Enterprise Zone. It is the scale of this ambition that marks Newham out as a real community wealth building trailblazer.

CLES looks forward to continuing our work with Newham to put this vision into practice.