A new economic model to save North Ayrshire

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The council which administers Arran has become the first in Scotland to adopt a radical economic model to plot a way forward now and post COVID-19.

North Ayrshire Council launched its ‘Community Wealth Building’ (CWB) strategy last week as it set out its road map to build back a better and fairer local economy.

The strategy sets out how the council and other ‘anchor’ organisations – including NHS Ayrshire and Arran, Ayrshire College and wider partners – will support more local business to bid for public sector contracts.

It will also encourage businesses based in North Ayrshire to spend locally to support local supply chains and the recovery of the island economy.

The council will work to ensure public land and assets can be used more effectively to meet community and business needs, as well as tackling climate change.

The council will also look at ways of establishing a Community Bank to support local citizens and businesses and ensure more money stays local.

It will also aim to broaden business ownership through supporting the development of co-operatives, employee ownership and social enterprises  and will ensure communities and workers have fairer jobs, pay and opportunities to train and progress.

An £8.8 million investment fund will support community wealth building projects, including the development of infrastructure to support business growth, with an emphasis on climate change after the council declared a climate emergency in 2019.

The council has long been an advocate for community empowerment through a Community Investment Fund and their Participatory Budgeting approach – where local groups are allocated resources for particular projects– is a blueprint for others across Scotland.

The CWB approach, which was developed initially by the Democracy Collaborative in the US, aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone.

It has proved successful in Cleveland and Ohio in America, while Preston in Lancashire adopted the model in 2011. In the subsequent years the area has seen local spend by anchor organisation in local businesses more than double. Between 2012/13 and 2016/17 the amount spent locally in Preston increased from £38.3 million to £112.3 million, with Preston’s unemployment rate halving and the city moving out of the top 20 per cent most deprived local authority areas in the UK.

Launching the strategy, leader of North Ayrshire Council Joe Cullinane said: ‘The North Ayrshire economy, despite some strengths, was fragile even before the current crisis, with levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality well above the Scottish average.

‘We will feel the impact of this economic shock for some time and it is important we start thinking about our economic recovery at this early stage to support our business base to rebuild, support communities into jobs and enhance local well-being.

‘As we emerge from COVID-19, we need to build an economy that is strong, resilient and fair. That is why this week we are launching a new Community Wealth Building strategy – the first of its kind in Scotland – to put forward a new economic model to support our recovery.

‘This isn’t just about how we do economic development. This is a new transformational approach for how we work as a council to support our local communities and businesses and protect our local environment, making us Scotland’s first Community Wealth Building Council.’

The full strategy can be viewed at www.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/cwb


North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane,. NO_B30cullinane01