Community Wealth Building in North Ayrshire

Julie McLachlan, North Ayrshire Council

A recent report by the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) identified North Ayrshire as having the lowest inclusive growth score in Scotland. It is no secret that Ayrshire contains some of the most challenging economic conditions in Scotland. Given this, there is a need to be innovative and do things differently at a local and regional level.

Ayrshire has been recognised for its leading role in developing policy and practical solutions to achieving inclusive growth, and Community Wealth Building (CWB) is at the forefront of the new North Ayrshire Council Plan.

CWB is an alternative approach to traditional economic development, which seeks to develop resilient, inclusive local economies, with more local employment and a larger and more diverse business base.

Community Wealth Building uses the economic levers available to local authorities and other ‘anchor institutions’ such as the NHS, further and higher education institutions, and larger private sector organisations, to support their local economies. CWB proposes that anchor institutions utilise five pillars for harnessing resources: procurement, fair employment, financial power, land and assets and democratic ownership of the economy.

The ambitious £251.5 million Ayrshire Growth Deal (AGD) presents a once in a generation opportunity to transform the economic prospects of our region and the Heads of Terms of the Deal, signed earlier this year, includes a £3m Ayrshire Community Wealth Building Fund to develop Scotland’s first regional approach to CWB. This pan-Ayrshire project is currently under development with support from the Scottish Government and wider regional partners, including through the Ayrshire Regional Economic Partnership.

The Fund is being informed by a local wealth diagnostic undertaken by CLES which identified what more we could do in the region to ensure wealth is locally embedded. This will be achieved through using the £3m Fund to take a pan-Ayrshire approach to shift the culture and approach of traditional economic development to facilitate place based local economic development.

Whilst the public sector has key role in enabling the conditions for an inclusive economy, the private sector plays a key role in delivering jobs and creating economic wellbeing. As such, we believe CWB provides us with a lens in which to encourage business-led inclusive growth, by working with our business base and local communities to develop plans for meaningful work, diversity of business models and successful places.

We are at the start of our Community Wealth Building journey however we believe there is a real opportunity for Ayrshire to be a pioneer in this approach in order to achieve our vision of an inclusive regional economy.