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Welsh Government

(2019 – ongoing)

CLES has been appointed as community wealth building partner to the Welsh government. Our role is to support anchor institutions in selected Public Services Board (PSB) areas across Wales to explore community wealth building approaches, with a focus on progressive procurement. This project is being delivered by CLES and the Wales Co-operative Centre.


  • The progressive national policy context in Wales provides a supportive framing for community wealth building approaches.
  • The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act means there is a specific legislative focus on improving the economic, social, environmental, and cultural well-being of people and communities in Wales.
  • The Welsh Government also prioritise strengthening the foundational economy – those sectors which deliver the everyday goods and services that people across Wales depend on.

Hywel Dda University Health Board

(2020 – ongoing)

Health spending has the potential to be a core economic driver in local economies, helping to mould the local economic architecture of places to address the social determinants of health and tackle some of the core drivers of avoidable demand into the health system. CLES, with Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB), are exploring how a progressive health board can maximise the impact of its spending power for wellbeing in Wales.


  • Health spending has the potential to be a core economic driver in local economies. However, this has yet to be realised at scale by health institutions in the UK.
  • In England, many health institutions are keen to explore their role as local economic agents, but this can be hampered by a muddled national policy context and a tendency towards centralised systems.
  • In Wales, the national commitment to a wellbeing economy and the prioritisation of the everyday, foundational economy, provides a progressive policy frame within which the scope for health spending as a core economic driver can be fully explored.
  • CLES is supporting HDUHB, which provides healthcare services to a population of around 384,000 throughout Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, to pioneer this approach.

Local elections 2021: Ideas for new administrations

This article originally appeared in The MJ.

Economic recovery from COVID-19 will be a long and painful process. When the pandemic struck, we at CLES argued for a new common-sense approach to economic development based on the principles of community wealth building.

From this emerged our plea for local government to muscle-up and embrace a series of key interventions to lead the charge to build back better. In our Own the future publication, we fleshed out a number of practical actions, which taken together, constitute an achievable vision for a just recovery and the social, democratic and economic reform of localities, led by local authorities.

A budget for recovery…but recovery for whom?

Years of successive budgets have been high on rhetoric and low on the content required to fundamentally change our economy. This budget is no different. The budget has continued to shore up spend, but not for local economies, local public services or the climate. In previous times, increased state spending would have benefited public sector workers and enhanced the social protection floor to insure us against poverty and destitution. Not this time.

Within the continued pledge to do “whatever it takes” there are plenty of warm words, bolstered by policies that show concern, but the cold harshness of a fossil fuelled economy of growth, financialisation and wealth extraction remains.

Summit 2020: Procurement for economic reform

Ding dong, 2020 is nearly over and we here at CLES are thinking about hope in the darkness and the prospect of local economic reform as we commence the long journey to Covid-19 recovery. In this spirit we’re sharing write ups of our policy breakout sessions from November’s Community Wealth Building Summit. Today Amanda Stevens looks at the role of progressive procurement in supporting local employment and recirculating wealth and surplus locally.

In this interesting session there was broad agreement by the panel and delegates that a change in perceptions about procurement is needed: procurement professionals should be encouraged to think beyond bureaucratic and technical considerations and to consider procurement as a lever to address economic, social and environmental challenges.

The Commons

By applying a community wealth building approach, local land and property assets can be owned and managed in ways which ensure that they generate wealth for local citizens, as opposed to being enclosed by private interests.

The goal here is not simply for a local authority or anchor institution to ‘own more land’, but instead to ensure that the land they do own is run by and for the people. This can be understood through the concept of ‘the commons’- the idea that the land held by public institutions is owned by all of us, together. To achieve this, public landowners should develop governance and management structures where communities can take direct control of common assets. By advancing a ‘commons’ approach to public land and assets, anchors can ensure that our shared buildings, parks, and other land holdings help to create good local economies, ensure sensible environmental stewardship, and advance social justice.

Community Land Trusts

Urban Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are democratically run organisations set up to develop and manage land and assets in the interests of their members. They tend to be set up to solve a local problem, such as unaffordable housing, or derelict and unproductive land. CLTs are driven by concerned members of communities who wish to take economic development into their own hands. Whilst they tend to be vehicles for the long-term stewarding of affordable housing, they can also develop other assets important to the community, such as community-run pubs, food growing or workspaces.

Lewes district – mobilising council assets, decarbonising supply chains

Breakout session: 3.15pm

Behind the plaudits for the “Preston model” lies a fundamental truth about community wealth building: there is no one way to do it. The power of the approach lies in its flexibility to local context and conditions. In these breakout sessions we will delve into the experience of places – who are at different stages in their community wealth building “journey”, in rural and urban contexts, with different challenges and enablers – to draw out the lessons that can be applied to your place.

Lewes is the county town of East Sussex in south east England. While the town and rural hinterlands to its north are relatively affluent, the outlying areas of the district and those areas adjoining the south coast experience high levels of deprivation.

A green recovery for local economies

Covid-19 and the climate emergency both expose in different ways the fundamental lack of resilience in how we develop local economies in the UK. There has been a lot of talk about how we must “build back better”, but if we want a green recovery worthy of the name, it will mean confronting these underlying issues once and for all.

Local economies are, right now, between a rock and a hard place: the rock – an unprecedented economic collapse, with mass unemployment, business failure, and social destitution for many; the hard place – the looming threat of climate emergency, with every new hot day a reminder that the clock is ticking towards ecological collapse.

Wealth-building for our local economic recovery

This article originally appeared in the MJ

As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown, calls for local government to lead the economic recovery are getting louder. Key among these voices are local politicians who have stewarded their places through the last two months. Many are convinced of the imperative to build back better, committed to leaving behind the failed models of trickle-down economics and ready not just to recover, but to embrace progressive reform with ideas such as community wealth-building.

For these local leaders, this unfolding crisis has brought home what they already knew – that the economic model we have followed in recent decades has failed and will fail further if not amended. Far from delivering the promise of prosperity for all, it has left too many less secure and worse off, enriched the already wealthy few and propelled us further down the road to ecological disaster.

Economic recovery and reform: the role of community power

This article originally appeared in the MJ

Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, our economy was failing many people and the planet. The imperative then was to create an economy that serves our needs, and shares wealth amongst as many people as possible. This imperative has only been amplified by the situation in which we now find ourselves. We believe the surge in community power in response to Covid-19 harbours the key to building back a better economy.

The recent upsurge in social solidary has been impressive with millions of acts of kindness taking place every day. Within days of the NHS volunteer scheme being announced, over 750,000 people had signed up. The Covid-19 Mutual Aid movement has mobilised 2.5 million people across the UK who are now working with community groups to deliver emergency food parcels.