Why New York Is Emulating Our City

Helen Sanderson gives her take on the Preston Model

I was at in a meeting in late September where investment into our city was being discussed. It was interesting enough but anyone who knows me is going to appreciate that, I was struggling with the numbers and what that actually meant on paper.

An individual around the table spoke up, he said: “I find it fascinating that I was on a call only the other week and the Deputy Mayor of New York was talking about the ‘Preston Model’.”

My ears pricked up, New York? Really? My interest was piqued. Phillip Johnson, the current Deputy Mayor of the City of New York, my (second) favourite city in the world talking about my hometown (and favourite, just in case you were wondering!).

I suddenly felt a little foolish that I knew more about Deputy Mayor Johnson, who is responsible for spearheading a diverse number of initiatives to drive economic growth in the Big Apple, than I did about the politics and investment projects in Preston. I set about learning what I could about what exactly is the Preston Model.

Preston City Council said: “The Preston Model is an approach to economic development that ensures wealth is redirected back into the local economy.”

The ‘Preston Model’ is a term applied to how the council, its partners and ‘anchor institutions’ (I’ll explain who these are in a second) are maximising the benefit of economic development, and ensure that the wealth that is generated directly benefits the local community.

Preston City Council explain its as: “The Preston Model, also known as Community Wealth Building, is an approach to economic development that tackles inequality by ensuring wealth is redirected back into the local economy and shared more equally among its residents.”

It’s about getting more ‘bang for your buck’, as our American cousins would say!

In the 1980s Thatcher talked about the ‘trickle down’ idea of money being spent somehow finding its way into local communities. I guess this worked to an extent, but what is special about the Preston Model is that it tries to be much more deliberate and direct in capturing these economic benefits, and making sure they stick within the local community. Less like a ‘trickle’… more like a hose pipe!

The Council committed itself to a co-operative initiative of local economic development in 2011 and Community Wealth Building was born with the help of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) in 2013, based on the Cleveland Model and Mondragon cooperatives of the Basque Country in Spain. The co-operative model is where an enterprise is jointly owned and operated by its members for their mutual benefit.

This Community Wealth Building approach is being implemented by Preston City Council and a range of organisations, often referred to as anchor institutions, which include the University of Central Lancashire, Community Gateway Housing Association, Preston’s College, Cardinal Newman College, Lancashire Constabulary, Lancashire County Council and NHS Lancashire. A key example of this approach in action is the way these organisations encourage local businesses to tender for their contracts.

The evidence shows that Community Wealth Building activities are boosting the local economy. Recent spending analysis found the procurement from institutions in Preston retained in the city was £112m which compares very well against £38m in 2012/13.

In addition, since the start of the project, an additional 4,000 employees in Preston are now receiving the Real Living Wage. Community Wealth Building ensures that the benefits of local growth are shared across local areas and are used to support investment in productive economic activities.

Preston City Council launched its Community Wealth Building 2.0: Leading Resilience and Recovery in Preston in February 2021, which sets the direction of travel for the upcoming years.

The Preston Model receives a lot of opposition as its viewed as a socialist policy from a Labour Preston City Council. Councillor Matthew Brown has received a lot of publicity for his role in the Preston Model, and has now co-authored a book with Rhian E. Jones, Paint Your Town Red, which claims to show ‘how Preston took back control’. Opposition state that there is no “evidence of quantifiable outcomes.” However what everyone can agree on is that Community Wealth Building is a great idea! If we can harness the public, private, co-operative and not-for-profit sectors in a local area all to work together for the good of that area, ‘insourcing’ and keeping wealth local.

Community wealth building offers an opportunity for local people to take back control, to ensure that the benefits of local growth are invested in their local areas, are used to support investment in productive economic activities and that people and their local institutions can work together on an agenda of shared benefit.

“The Preston Partnership is a private sector led independent organisation that brings together the private and public sector to help shape the future of Preston”, said a spokesperson for the partnership.

The Preston Partnership was formed in 2018 by a group of private-sector business leaders combining with Preston City Council and the University of Central Lancashire. The organisation has grown to include over 100 members from all sectors including property and construction firms, manufacturers, business professionals, leisure and retail and service providers, all passionate about contributing towards the continued growth and development of the city and to see Preston realise its potential. Preston Partnership works closely with Preston City Council to help inform and shape regeneration in our city.

Their work was evidenced in March 2021, when a sub-committee of Preston Partnership – the Towns Fund Board – secured a £20.9 million Town Deal which will kick-start a bold and transformational £200 million development programme in Preston’s Harris Quarter, called the Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme.

The £20.9 million was secured as part of the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, established to help level up towns and cities around the country. The Harris Quarter Towns Fund Investment Programme is focussed on a number of projects across culture, leisure, residential, infrastructure, community and education, and is part of the Preston City Investment Plan (CIP). Preston Partnership also played a lead role in Preston’s ambitious City Investment Plan, a 15-year strategy that will shape Preston’s future development.

A spokesperson for the Preston Partnership said: “We believe great things happen when people work in partnership. By working together, Preston can create a prosperous and healthy city which benefits its people, businesses and visitors. A city for everyone.”

John Chesworth, Chair of the Preston Partnership said: “If you take a walk around Preston, you will notice a positive flow of change happening throughout the city.

It’s this community spirit that is alive and well in the city that led to the creation of Preston Partnership. People from the private and public sector coming together to enable positive change for Preston and to make our economy work for all our communities.”

A spokesperson for the Preston Partnership added: “From the £200m regeneration of University of Central Lancashire and transformation of Winckley Square, to the restoration of the bus station and our city living strategy, Preston’s progress is happening and is only showing signs of accelerating. The Partnership and its people are very much future focussed.

Our 15-year City Investment Plan sets out a bold ambition for the city. Preparing our investment plan has stimulated collaboration, generated new ideas and sparked fresh thinking about priorities for the city. Partnership work in action.”

John added: “In March 2021, we heralded the government’s decision to award Preston a £20.9 million Town Deal. This funding will help transform Preston’s Harris Quarter through a range of impressive projects and unleash the potential of this cultural and civic city district. Another positive story for Preston. The Preston community spirit is enabling tangible positive change within the city, helping improve its appeal as a place to live, visit, do business, work and invest. A ‘true’ city for everyone.”

If you or your organisation want to make Preston an even better place to invest, live, work and visit then the Preston Partnership is for you.

For more information on Preston Model or, to join the Preston Partnership visit: preston.gov.uk and/or prestonpartnership.org



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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