Have you heard of Coastal Corbynomics? Or Corbyn’s Cornwall? How about the Pasty Pound? Don’t worry, you soon will.
Last year the The Economist magazine described the “Preston Model” of Labour-run local government as “Jeremy Corbyn’s model town” and an “unlikely laboratory for Corbynomics.”
Soon after, the town of Hartlepool also started looking at the idea – known as “community wealth building.” It is all about keeping as much money as possible in the local economy.
Now, the man who has arguably done more than anyone else to turn an abstract notion into practical action is coming to speak to the Cornwall Labour Party.
Neil McInroy is chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, a think tank based in Manchester. He is an advisor to shadow chancellor John McDonnell and has been described by the Local Government Chronicle as “one of the 50 most influential people” in developing local council policy.
Neil is one of the speakers at the Cornwall Labour Party conference at Heartlands, on Saturday 23rd March. The conference is open to all Labour Party members, tickets £10 each, and will launch the consultation exercise which will lead to Labour’s manifesto for the 2021 Cornwall Council elections.
People attending the conference can also find out more about how they can be Labour candidates at those council elections.
A few weeks ago, the small band of only four Labour councillors persuaded the council to find an extra £1 million (£3.5 million over four years) for Cornwall’s children’s services, even though the leading Liberal Democrat group voted against. Just think what a majority Labour council could do!
There are many lessons that Cornwall can learn from Preston, which in 2013 went from attracting only £38 million of local investment to £111 million by 2017. Organisations such as universities and housing associations, which cannot relocate, were persuaded to spend their procurement budgets on Preston-based business, rather than outsourcing.
The proportion of their spending in Lancashire nearly doubled, from 39 per cent to 79 per cent. Preston city council has doubled the money it spends locally: from 14 per cent of its budget in 2012 to 28 per cent in 2016. None of this increases local spending – it simply redistributes it.
Preston city council became the first living wage employer in the north, founded a not-for-profit energy firm, established a credit union, and encourages local businesses to become co-operatives and public bodies to deal with more co-operatives. There are plans for a Lancashire-wide community bank, too.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has bought into the idea, establishing a Community Wealth Building Unit. Cornwall Labour Party aims to become a significant voice within this new approach to local community development.
Last year the Hartlepool Fabians – set up by members of the local Labour party in early 2018, and including prospective councillors, sitting councillors and trade unionists – began to write their own fully fleshed-out policy proposal for a “Hartlepool Model.”
The Hartlepool Model ran to 23 pages. The Cornwall Labour Party manifesto could well be even more detailed – a far cry from the two sides of A4 produced in 2017.
As the New Statesman put it: “Globally, from the American rust belt to the north east of England, it looks as if in-sourcing, competitive co-operatives and democratising local economies are gaining traction as a response to inequality and decline.”
The Cornwall Labour Party conference starts with registration from 10.30am, and the chair’s opening remarks (Falmouth’s Anna Gillett) at 11am.
Parliamentary candidates Paul Farmer (Camborne, Redruth and Hayle) and Jenn Forbes (Truro and Falmouth) will set out their stalls and then Neil McInroy will describe his thoughts about how “Corbyn’s Cornwall” could become a reality.
Later, Labour’s community organiser Kathrine See will outline her approach to local engagement and consultation, to inform the way Cornwall Labour Party develops the policies for its 2021 manifesto. Cornwall Council's Labour group leader Stephen Barnes will share his thoughts on life at County Hall.
Following a period for questions, the conference will split into policy workshops to start the serious business of simply asking the right questions. For example: How many houses? Who are they for? How do you define “affordable?”
There is no limit to the range of policy ideas which can be discussed. But by the time we have considered whether Cornwall needs more by-passes, and where, and how to run a proper bus service, and how to end poverty pay, and be carbon-neutral by 2025 - we’ll be ready for the evening bar and entertainment which will round off the day.