Local government

  • Neil McInroy

    Chief Executive

  • Digging Deep for Change

    This piece originally appeared in the Municipal Journal.

    We are optimists in local government. But that optimism is being stretched to breaking point: by this pandemic, by ongoing public service austerity, rising demand, insecure finances and stalled devolution. As the context worsens and our early hopes of ‘building back better’ dim, we’re going to have to dig deep.

    In April, CLES – the national organisation for local economies – argued that we faced a moment of historic importance. Our argument then, as it is now, was that this pandemic will require unprecedented action to safeguard the wellbeing of millions, but that it also represents an unprecedented opportunity to drive a huge transformation and build a greener and fairer society. Yet, as the months have passed, these big changes have not materialised. If we are to live up to the necessity and opportunity that COVID-19 has afforded us, there are three key things we are going to have to confront.

  • PROVOCATION

    From recovery...to reform

    20th May 2020
    ...
  • Time for local economic development to muscle up

    This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle

    For some in the local economic development community there is talk of a post crisis “bounce back” – reflective of an idea that the economy is on a purely temporary freeze, but will eventually thaw, and whilst an unprecedented situation, we will get back to something akin to “normal”. While this may be comforting for some, it is fanciful. Instead, we are going to need a massive reset to our local economic development thinking and practice.

    We are experiencing irreversible structural and societal change. Our local economies are collapsing; we were trundling along with stagnant growth even before Covid-19 arrived and now a growing recession with unprecedented levels of business failure and unemployment is heading down the tracks. The economic and social geography of the crisis is emerging, and where before we may have had to battle local economic sluggishness and poverty, we will now be fighting dereliction and destitution.

    Recovery is a fork in the road

    This article originally appeared in the The MJ

    Over the last month we have seen local government accomplish things which just weeks before would have seemed the stuff of fantasy: a huge redeployment of staff and the repurposing of buildings, fleet and supply chains to supply critical goods and services; and the creation of new welfare, employment and business advice services to name but two.

    We need a generous state forever

    For years we have been told that expansive government intervention is not a feasible or desirable solution to our major social, economic and environmental ills.

    Yet, the unprecedented government intervention of the last three weeks has turned decades of orthodoxy on its head. The state, maligned for years by successive governments, is back. In this, it has re-assumed its fundamental purpose: to insure us against a life that is, as in Hobbes’ Leviathan, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

  • Amanda Stevens

    Senior Researcher

  • An end to austerity? Not for local government.

    This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle

    The budget has found the money tree, but not for local economies, local public services or the climate.

    We need to look at where the money goes and who has power over it. Big finance, large infrastructure companies and the existing wealth winners all win again. Just and green local economies for all remain as distant as ever.

    Wider economic austerity has been abandoned – but let’s be clear, local government public service austerity remains, and so do the systemic economic issues bedevilling great swathes of this land.

    Climate emergency requires local economic restructuring

    This article originally appeared in the Local Government Chronicle

    The community wealth movement has four key actions that will help councils meet the challenge of climate change – ‘greening’ existing practice is insufficient.

    Around 70% of all councils across the UK have now declared a climate emergency, with ambitious carbon reduction targets. While acknowledgment of the crisis is an important first step, the pressing need is to now make these declarations meaningful in terms of radical action and progressive practice.

    Things will not get better: We need radical action on adult care and children’s services

    This article originally appeared in The Municipal Journal.
    “Given the longevity and the often fruitless talk about these crises, the time has come to accept that we now have a massive state crisis, which is grounded in inaction.”
    Talk of our local public services being in crisis is now sadly an embedded part of our local government conversation. Exacerbated by nearly 10 years of austerity, the fact that rising social need is and will not be met by adequate provision is now the condition of many services including adult care and children’s. Given the longevity and the often fruitless talk about these crises, the time has come to accept that we now have a massive state crisis, which is grounded in inaction.

  • Let’s democratise the insourcing revolution!

    CLES welcomes the publication of the Labour Party’s report, Democratising Local Public Services. Its bold plan for a 21st century insourcing offers a powerful corrective to the last four decades of outsourcing, commercialisation and, more recently, unprecedented austerity. It appeals to all who have been working to combat the hollowing out, privatisation and undermining of our public services.

    However, there are some changes in emphasis and direction required. CLES agrees that insourcing of local public services should be the default position, and that far too much outsourcing is delivered by those who seek profit and extract wealth at the expense of the public service. Nevertheless, we should be building a resurgence of a public service movement and offer a hand to the many organisations and individuals who, whilst not directly part of local government, are equally passionate about public values, public services and are at the forefront of a movement to develop new forms of democratic and citizen involvement. Democratic institutions such as cooperatives, and participatory democratic forms such as community businesses and social enterprises, offer different ways of realising social, economic and environmental value. These organisations are far removed from the rapacious greed of large outsourcers and as such should have some role in the democratisation, delivery and part ownership of service production.
    “We should be building a resurgence of a public service movement and offer a hand to the many organisations and individuals who, whilst not directly part of local government, are equally passionate about public values, public services and are at the forefront of a movement to develop new forms of democratic and citizen involvement.”
    So, whilst Labour’s paper provides an excellent correction to years of marketisation and privatisation, a deepening democratic and social revolution for our public services cannot solely begin and end at the town hall. Clearly, back door outsourcing – where small alternative forms of delivery are eventually acquired and gobbled up by big private outsourcers – must be guarded against. However, the democratisation of our local public services must make provision to include, where appropriate, other socially just forms of delivery. Consequently, the debate here is not solely public sector insourcing versus private sector outsourcing.

    Celebrating eight years of community wealth building in Preston

    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.

    Taking forward New Municipalism in London

    Following years of austerity, wealth extraction and an economy incapable of responding to social needs, the global New Municipalist movement is taking root here in the UK.  In a new publication, New Municipalism in London, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) introduces this new concept and, with the London Boroughs of IslingtonHackney and Camden, shows how it is being taken forward.

    Like many world cities, London is both a beacon of extravagant wealth (London is the fifth wealthiest city in the world) and grinding poverty (27% of London’s citizens live in poverty).  Huge levels of speculative investment and gentrification are pricing ordinary Londoners, communities and businesses out of their own city.  Councils reeling from austerity and cuts to vital services are now contending with hollowed out local economies, denuded services and social pain.  New Municipalism is a deep intentional fightback against this status quo.  It rejects trickle down  inclusion after growth, and recognises that service transformation and ‘more for less’ system change is inadequate.

    The Spring Budget: Robin Hood in Reverse?

    In the Budget, wealthy businesses in thriving parts of the country were granted a smoother transition to their new higher business rates bill. This easing-in period for successful businesses will be subsidised by a “fair” increase in National Insurance Contributions by 1% to 10% for the self-employed – raising £145m a year by 2021/22.