A Community Double Whammy: losing local value and the Poverty Premium

The Fair By Design team today paid a visit to the team at CLES — Centre for Local Economic Strategies and their fringe event at Labour conference on local wealth building, featuring contributions by, among others, Andrew Gwynne, the shadow Housing secretary.

Cllr Matthew Brown, leader of the Preston City Council, began proceedings discussing what his council are doing to keep local wealth in the local community, and importantly among local people themselves. He discussed some staple issues for Fair By Design: the support his council is giving to credit unions, the need for a living wage, and in the future a regional bank for the area — which will also stave off the need for locals to visit high cost credit providers, one of the main contributors to the Poverty Premium.

We also heard from Cllr Asima Shaikh, Executive Member for Economic Development at the London Borough of Islington, who told a tale of two communities in her borough (Islington has some of the poorest, and richest, Londoners). She mentioned that her borough has the second highest rate of child poverty after Tower Hamlets and that a lot of Islington’s residents are disconnected from the booming wealth it brings in.

Cllr Shaikh spoke about local authorities supporting the local supply chain of businesses and taking essential services back in-house. She mentioned that businesses in her area were increasingly interested in exploring what they can do for their employees by way of employee support and assistance.

She also mentioned the local authority setting up its own energy company: Angelic Energy, a not-for-profit gas and electricity supplier. Very useful since the largest proportion of the average poverty premium, according to Bristol’s research, is due to the cost of not switching to the best fuel tariff: £233.

There were strong nods of agreement from the panel when the Fair By Design team commented from the floor that not only do local people not feel the wealth of their areas, but they also feel the double whammy of paying extra for the costs of essential services, particularly those on low incomes, in the form of the poverty premium. Cllr Shaikh agreed it was something councils need to learn more about.

For more information see our roadmap: Being Poor Shouldn’t Cost More.