The Preston Model and New Municipalism in the United Kingdom: 'Community Wealth Building' and the Uneven Geographies of Municipal Centrism
Dr. Simon Parker is Professor in Politics and Co-Director of the Centre for Urban Research and Co-Chair of the Migration Network at the University of York (UK) and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies in the Institute for European Studies at Cornell University. He is the author of Urban Theory and the Urban Experience: Encountering the City (2nd edition Routledge, 2015) and Cities, Politics and Power (Routledge, 2010) as well as numerous chapters and articles on urban and regional studies/urban theory and contemporary European politics.
Abstract: The central Lancashire town of Preston in the North of England has become an unlikely poster child for a revival in equity focused urban policy making that has been broadly describe as ‘new municipalism’ (Russell 2019) and which shares in common with the Fearless Cities Movement a commitment to a resident centered local democracy in which circular economies and community wealth building (CWB) form the core of a solidaristic agenda of social change which looks beyond conventional urban growth coalition strategies. The Mayor of Preston, Matthew Brown, sees progressive procurement, the use of anchor institutions as generators of wealth and employment (including the municipality) and the promotion of cooperatives and credit unions as central to maintaining jobs and investment in a ‘post-industrial’ urban community that has suffered from the uneven geographies of the post-crash drift of capital and employment to London and the South-East (Preston City Council, n.d.) In this paper I draw on policy documents, evaluation reports and interviews with councillors and stakeholders to explore how the Preston Model (CLES, 2013) succeeded in winning the support of local voters and the attention of prominent municipal leaders around the world. The paper seeks to understand whether the Preston Model is an isolated example of municipal socialist revivalism associated with the ‘new urban left’ of the 1980s or a more significant and internationally oriented example of CWB that offers the possibility of challenging urban development models that remain reliant on transnational corporate investors and globalized capital. The paper concludes by exploring the potential for building coalitions of CWB municipalities internationally as well as the challenges and limitations of this approach to urban transformation under conditions of intensifying neoliberalism and right populism at the national scale.