Local government budgets were among the first to be hit by austerity measures imposed by the UK government after the global financial crisis of the late 2000s. With seemingly little room for manoeuvre, councils were forced to close libraries and community centres, sell off their fixed assets, and outsource social care, catering, park maintenance and other services to private providers whose business model has tended to depend on the erosion of workers’ pay and conditions and tax avoidance.
Out of this inauspicious context, an exciting experiment emerged in the small Northern English city of Preston. Shortly before its central government grant was cut to zero, the city’s council decided to embark upon a radical project aimed at transferring economic, social and political power back to the local community, following the principles of the growing community wealth building movement. For Breezeblock #19, FA’s Charlie Clemoes talked to Rhian E. Jones about Preston, community wealth building, and its capacity to radically transform our approach to development.
Paint Your Town Red, a new book co-written by Preston’s council leader Matthew Brown and writer Rhian E. Jones