Where do you find deprivation in England today? The North? Coastal towns? Inner cities? The depressing answer found in today’s newly published Index of Multiple Deprivation is clear: everywhere.
The creative sector represents a huge employer in the UK. It contributes billions to the economy, employs thousands, and is a key export of our economy. Yet the sector faces enormous challenges in UK cities. The cost of rent, poor connectivity, and licencing problems resulting from city centre residential developments are just some of the issues cultural operators face.
Much has been said about the so-called “Preston model” – a new economic approach developed by the City Council, against the grain of much conventional thinking on economic development. In eight years, Preston has shown that a different model is possible. The deep, practice-focused work now stands as proof that community wealth building can drive real change.
That is why we’re proud to today be releasing How we built community wealth in Preston; achievements and lessons. This publication, jointly produced by CLES and Preston City Council, is the definitive telling of the story and the theory behind the ‘Preston model’, written by two organisations who have led on this work from the very beginning.
The spectacle of this year’s Sunday Times Rich List has revealed, yet again, that Britain’s richest are getting richer still. Published yesterday, the list shows that Britain’s 1,000 richest individuals and families are sitting on record wealth of £771.3bn, up £47.8bn in a year. The UK’s billionaire count has climbed to 151, up six on last year. The threshold at which the super-rich make the list has risen £5m to £120m.
In other news (from the same paper on the same day) we learn that an emergency food bank has been set up in the Whitehall offices of a government department, after cleaners and other support staff became the victims of a payroll blunder by one of Britain’s biggest outsourcing companies. The human cost of this incident adds to the growing number of people in the UK who cannot afford basic needs such as food.
If ever there was an example that epitomises the misery imposed by market neo-liberalism, it’s the plight of Britain’s seaside towns.
Decades of agglomeration has led to the incubation of ‘superstar cities’ such as Manchester, leaving places like Blackpool and Rhyl deprived and depleted. As CLES reported on in 2017, the last vestiges of their seaside heritage are now enveloped by a coil of ever-tightening social and economic decline.
Following the General Election the Conservatives are to form a minority government. There is now new uncertainty as to the stability of the new administration and questions as to the extent it will be able to focus on building an economy for everyone. However, whilst national politics and government are important, it’s worth reminding ourselves that that change does not begin and end in Whitehall.
The report from the RSA inclusive Growth Commission has now been launched – ‘Making our economy work for everyone’. Chaired by Stephanie Flanders, of JP Morgan Asset Management, this work sought to identify practical ways to make local economies across the UK more economically inclusive and prosperous. However, it is arguable that the ideas are limited in terms of wider social justice and economic resilience. Instead of making an economy work for everyone, it’s more likely that it will merely make our economy work for just a few more.
For many years, economic development has been a thin gruel for social inclusion; based overly on economic growth (sometimes at all costs), trickle down and spatial agglomeration. So, it is heartening that the commission seems to have partly picked up on the ideas of CLES and others (you can read our RSA submission here). This includes the understanding (if not a truism) that investment in social institutions and people is as important as investment in economic infrastructure; or, how the spheres of the economic and the social are not separate, but linked. They also highlight the excellent practical work CLES are engaged in: Community Wealth Building and Anchor Institutions.