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16May

Paint Your Town Red by Matthew Brown and Rhian E Jones review – how Preston took back control

This account of the ‘Preston model’, the Lancashire city’s bold wealth-building scheme whose champions include Labour’s John McDonnell, fails to address to what degree it works

We’d all like to believe in Preston. The Labour-led Lancashire city has, over the last decade, been pioneering its own version of community wealth-building, a concept described as both “guerrilla localism” and “extreme common sense”. What it means, at its simplest, is that money spent in a city by “anchor institutions” – hospitals, universities, housing associations, the council – as much as possible stays in the city. Contracts for catering or construction, rather than going to faceless London-based or international corporations, go to local businesses.

Rather than go to remote shareholders, cashflow and profits stay in the immediate area, not only giving economic benefits to citizens, but also involvement in and ownership of local decision-making. Residents can “take back control” – not in the ersatz sense offered by Brexit slogans, but in concrete and practical ways. In what might have been a classic “red wall” area – an old industrial town where voters feel let down by successive governments – the Labour vote has held up, including in the recent local elections.

There’s a shortage of voices from satisfied citizens, as opposed to the businesses most likely to approve of the model

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