Council urge Scottish Government to follow North Ayrshire lead in post-Covid recovery approach
Posted on 5 Jun 2020
NORTH Ayrshire Council has urged the Scottish Government to be bold and radical in their moves to rebuild the economy post Covid-19 by focusing on an inclusive and green economic recovery.
Last month, the Council announced its own ambitious plans to build back better after becoming the first local authority in Scotland to adopt a Community Wealth Building approach.
They announced their strategy in May and are working with a team of international external experts to help drive forward proposals – including new co-operatively owned enterprises - they hope will overhaul a local economy that has been in decline and ‘left behind’ for a number of decades.
And in a written submission to the Scottish Government Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, the Council believes only a complete economic re-think can stop fragile local economies – like North Ayrshire and Ayrshire as a region – from suffering another wave of economic hardship. The submission also calls for a move away from a focus on narrow economic indicators like GDP to a greater focus on economic, social and environmental wellbeing.
They have called on the Scottish Government to
• use the Scottish National Investment Bank to support areas most in need through a focus on an inclusive and green economic recovery
• provide funding for local job schemes and job creation initiatives which, where possible, should create ‘green jobs’ and ensure a just transition
• explore how national body and agency spend can be used to support local economies, particularly fragile regions, through more local spend and the creation of local supply chains. Businesses supplying the public sector should be given a ‘social license to operate’ and show commitment to fair work, net zero, place and building local supply chains
• support and promote the development of local production and shorter supply chains as a tool to aid recovery across sectors and achieve net zero
Between 12th March and 9th April, only a few weeks into this Covid-19 crisis, the number of people claiming Universal Credit in North Ayrshire increased by 30 per cent, from an already high baseline
North Ayrshire has consistently had some of the highest rates of poverty, inequality and unemployment, and one of the lowest job densities in Scotland.
Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire, said: “The world is already experiencing a major recession and we know that local businesses and communities are already being majorly impacted by this global health and economic crisis. 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’ll 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 green jobs and enhance local wellbeing.
“As we emerge from COVID-19 we need to build an economy that is strong, resilient and fair. That is why we launched our Community Wealth Building Strategy.
“It’s the first of its kind in Scotland and is about working in partnership with communities, businesses and trade unions to build a strong local economy which supports fair work, encourages local spend and uses the land and property we own for the common good so that wealth stays local.
“We believe that the Scottish Government must recognise that the current economic model – even before COVID-19 – is broken and change course.
“Areas like ours have chartered the same economic course as the rest of the country for decades, chasing inward investment and hoping that economic growth would trickle down and benefit people who live in communities like ours. All that happened was the economic divide between affluent cities like London and Edinburgh and areas like ours grew.
“Fragile economies like ours are being left behind. They take longer to recover from economic shocks as we saw in 2008.
“There has to be much broader, more inclusive approach taken by the Scottish Government. They must look at local economies like ours and support us as we move forward and embark on new challenges like tackling the climate emergency.
“We have shown economic and environmental leadership in proposing a new economic model focused on inclusion and wellbeing, and are asking that Scottish Government do the same.”
The Council’s Community Wealth Building 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.
They will also encourage businesses based in North Ayrshire to spend locally to support local supply chains.
The Council will work to ensure public land and assets can be utilised 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.
They will also aim to broaden business ownership through supporting the development of co-operatives, employee ownership and social enterprises that offer fairer jobs, pay and opportunities to train and progress.
An £8.8 million Investment Fund will support a series of Community Wealth Building projects, including the development of infrastructure to support business growth, with an emphasis also on climate change after the Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019.
The CWB approach, which was developed initially by the Democracy Collaborative in the USA, 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 the north-west of England adopted the model in 2011. In the subsequent years, the Lancashire city has seen local spend by anchor organisations 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.