The latest statistics regarding the British economy make for dire reading; growth is declining. Manufacturing numbers are down. Some blame the slowdown in the Chinese economy. Some blame Brexit. Blame, however, is no substitute for action, writes Labour group leader cllr Shaz Nawaz.
It is tempting to think that we here in Peterborough are merely passengers on a larger vessel, and whatever rough seas it encounters is something we merely have to bear as best we can. This is not entirely the case: we have the capacity to take more control of our fate by using our own resources.
Local government provides a significant source of expenditure and employment in Peterborough; at the moment, its priorities appear to be skewed towards procurement from large suppliers, regardless of where they are headquartered. We may as well put our money in a suitcase on the next train out of the city, never to be seen again.
When Labour is elected, we will implement a “community wealth building” strategy. This has already been successfully deployed in the city of Preston, which has seen a significant uplift in its local economy. Our plan is to buy and employ local whenever possible. This means we will look at the total value of contracts: we do not merely want to get value for money in terms of products and services received in exchange for what we’ve paid, rather, we want to assess the total value of a contract to the city as a whole.
In the event of a local contractor not being available, we can add provisos to contracts which call for use of local resources. For example, Skanska does a lot of construction in our city: but how many of its workers live in Peterborough? How much of its concrete is procured from local firms? Did this aspect feature at all in the contracts that were signed?
Spending locally will not revive the local economy by itself: however, let’s extrapolate its effects from a practical example. Let’s imagine a future in which a Labour City Council grants a contract to Lesko Modular Group, a Peterborough firm, to build social housing. This contract will not only provide homes and employment to local people, the profits will enable Lesko to expand its business. This has been the effect of similar community wealth building programmes elsewhere.
This programme by itself will not prevent Peterborough being hit by an economic downturn. However, surely in straitened times, what we ought to be doing is using our money to look after our city and the people who paid into its coffers in the first place. Surely, we ought to be laying the foundations for growth in the future. Surely, we ought to be building up our economic base so that when the uplift comes, we will be ready to take advantage of it. Implementing this strategy will require hard work, a bit of imagination, and an entrepreneurial spirit: the Labour Group is ready f0r the challenge.