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Living in the fifth largest economy in the world, an economy which is growing (slowly) and with record levels of employment things should be looking good. However, statistics abound showing that people are struggling. For the first time since Victorian Times the new generation are in danger of being worse off than their parents, and pay growth is at it’s worst level since Napoleonic times (BBC Reality check)

“Britain’s current young generation earned £8,000 less during their 20s than their predecessors and are at risk of being the first cadre of workers in modern times to see their lifetime earnings fall, according to new research”. (The Guardian)

I’m sure most of us would prefer to be around now than during Victorian or Napoleonic times. The technological advances have been staggering. These are healthier, safer, easier times, but what seems to be missing is  ‘opportunity’. The opportunity which comes from having a good, well paid job. To have security,  to be able to make choices to improve things. To choose the type of work you do. To choose whether to buy or rent a home. In essence, the opportunity to make your life better.

These opportunities are thin on the ground for the quarter of UK families which have savings of less than £100 (The Independent). You are struggling to stand still if you have savings of less than £100, never mind make things better. What do you do when your oven or your car breaks down and needs to be replaced? You manage by borrowing or getting sucked into weekly payment schemes.  Consumer debt, which excludes mortgages and student loans, is up by almost 20% over the past 5 years (The Guardian). The result is that huge numbers of families just say scrape by, day to day, with little to no chance of getting ahead.

If we agree that the creation of opportunities is beneficial to us all as well as the communities we live in, how do we see this developing going forward? This is where Uberstarbucksification comes in. The trends at the moment appear to be heading in the direction of a much more extreme version of where we find ourselves today. Business and wealth creation is being consolidated more and more into fewer and fewer large businesses that have a smaller and smaller attachment to the communities we live in. It’s difficult to see how this can end well as resources are relentlessly drained out of local communities.

So, is there an alternative? One interesting development is what is being called the “Preston Model” where Preston Town Council have created a blue print to build a more robust and self-sufficient local economy and to do this at a time of increased cuts and austerity. An inspiration for this plan was work carried out in the rust-belt state of Cleveland, Ohio in the USA which was looking how to recover from the impact of deindustrialisation(The Guardian). Not dissimilar to what has happened in the North East.

The principle behind the “Preston Model” is a very simple one – Can this money be spent locally? By getting what they refer to as 12 ‘Anchor Institutions’ ranging from the Council to Universities, Hospitals and Police, to ask this simple question they have been able to redirect £Millions back into the local economy.

So, if we are looking for the answer to how we create a thriving community, making better use of the money we already have would seem to be a good first step.  Just ask the question, Can this money be spent locally? It’s a simple principle and if adopted by the wider community these extra funds would continuously flow through the local economy creating opportunities for everyone. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?

www.briarylocal.co.uk happy to support Small Business Saturday

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Peter @ Briary


Is Uberstarbucksification

really the answer?

Thriving Local Communities - Consett Festival 2017