Urban Alternatives is launched by a collaboration of different actors which are united in their efforts to create a more democratic, just and sustainable world. This map seeks to highlight initiatives that work towards this goal. Proposal for initiatives not listed yet can be made directly on the website. This process is open to new collaborations.


Preston’s Local Community Wealth Building

Inclusive Housing & Public Space

What challenges did this initiative look to address?

Preston is a post-industrial city in the North of England, whose local authority faced some of the UK's most severe financial cuts. The typical approach is for local authorities to compete for inward investment, which results in a race to the bottom in attempt to attract large business to the region.

Preston experienced significant challenges when a major developer withdrew from the city centre's development plan, forcing a crisis in the city's economic development plans. The city needed a new approach, so Preston decided to pursue a vision to re-imagine the way in which economic development could be pursued.

The challenge was to develop a model that was not based on attracting inward investment from large business - which often sees wealth extracted from the region - but to work with the existing assets in the city to develop a sustainable and positive local economy.

What has changed?

Between 2012/13 and 2016/2017, Preston based institutions increased their total spend in the Preston economy from 5% to 18.2%. More broadly in Lancashire, this increased from 39% to 79.2%.

Since 2013, this means that over £70 million has been redirected back into the Preston economy; £200 million invested into the Lancashire economy; spending behaviour within public bodies has been transformed; and, new tools for a fairer economy have been developed.

In a time of increasing global financial inequality, these are the first steps towrads ensuring a fairer distribution of wealth, more meaningful employment, supporting worker and member control through the development of cooperatives, and rebuilding the public spending base to support further progressive change.

How did it happen?

Building on a long-standing relationship between Preston Council and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, and taking inspiration from the work of the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, a local wealth building plan was developed.

The first step was to identify 12 large institutions rooted in Preston - such as the councils, the hospital, the university, and the police - with the aim of collectively revising the procurement strategies. In partnership with the University of Central Lancashire, the council started to expand the co-operative economy through Preston’s Co-operative Network – supporting new and existing co-operatives to grow and bid for contracts from these anchor institutions.

A Lancashire Community Bank was established, to lend to the small businesses, co-operatives and individuals that are often ignored by the mainstream banking system. The council also supported the establishment of Guild Money, a city-wide credit union with 500 members, and also fund Lancashire Community Finance to provide affordable credit.