Three cheers for Lan­cashire lo­cal­ism

The Week Middle East - - News - Alice Thom­son

Could Pre­ston prove a blue­print for post-Brexit Bri­tain, asks Alice Thom­son. Six years ago, the Lan­cashire town was on its up­pers – its local econ­omy stag­nant, its cen­tral fund­ing slashed, its plans to re­de­velop the city cen­tre in shreds. But then the Labour coun­cil came up with a rad­i­cal plan: to start buy­ing things lo­cally. It urged all its in­sti­tu­tions – its schools, uni­ver­sity, pen­sion funds, po­lice, hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and hos­pi­tals – to start spend­ing more of their com­bined bud­get of £1bn on local providers; to con­sider, say, us­ing “a local builder who costs a lit­tle more, but who will spon­sor two local ap­pren­tices”. To­day, six key in­sti­tu­tions in the area now spend 18% of their bud­get in Pre­ston, up from 5% in 2013, pump­ing an ex­tra £75m a year into the town. And the idea is catch­ing on: Manch­ester City Coun­cil, for ex­am­ple “has now increased its local spend from 44% of its bud­get to 70%”. Not that lo­cal­ism should mean re­treat­ing from the out­side world. It would be dis­as­trously pro­tec­tion­ist to turn local sourc­ing into a le­gal re­quire­ment: we need global con­glom­er­ates. But we also need local en­ter­prise “to hu­man­ise our homes, towns and cities”.

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