How Hartlepool society hopes to boost town’s fortunes with innovative approach to spending
Innovative ways to help boost the prosperity of Hartlepool were unveiled at a packed public meeting.
More than 150 people attended an event organised by the Hartlepool Fabian Society about community wealth building at Hartlepool College of Further Education.
The society is leading calls for Hartlepool to adopt a range of changes to help keep more money within the community instead of going to big banks and multi-national companies.
The proposal by the Hartlepool Fabian Society is adapted from a similar model that has boosted the fortunes of Preston.
Preston City Council leader Councillor Matthew Brown explained how they now procure services from local suppliers instead of relying on outside investment, and have persuaded local ‘anchor organisations’ like universities to spend their procurement budgets on local businesses, rather than outsourcing.
The city council also established a credit union, invested public pension fund money, set up cooperatives and is looking to set up a community bank.
A spokesman for the Hartlepool Fabian Society said: “It is not about adopting the Preston model, it’s about adapting it.
“The council spends a lot of money and some of that could be directed more locally.
“We need to make the money that we are spending work as hard as possible.”
Supporters say it could work in Hartlepool by breaking down large development contracts so local firms can provide individual elements such as plumbing, roofing, or flooring.
Another could be to set up a cooperative to bulk buy products for small local businesses to help people buy from independent traders rather than large high street chains.
Hartlepool Jesmond ward Councillor Paddy Brown who is supporting the plan, said: “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t adapt it.
“It’s a huge project that would see some change quickly. Other changes may take years.”
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill said the public meeting was a ‘fascinating insight’.
He added: “As a coastal town we are already moving our economy forward, but we could do so much more, especially post Brexit.
“We need to develop and cultivate new ideas around job growth, procurement and investment.
“Many of the ideas developed on the night were both practical and progressive and well worth exploring.”
Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party has also adopted the society’s proposals as party policy.
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said the Preston Model is not a new idea.
They said: “The council incorporated this into its approach to procurement in 2017 when we launched our current Council Plan and it is being progressed under the banner of ‘Supply Hartlepool’.
“We are working with the Centre for Local Economic Studies to identify ways in which we can further strengthen our approach to using our spending power to invest in the local economy.
“CLES has also been invited to present to the Health and Wellbeing Board to encourage other public sector agencies to use their spending power to strengthen the local economy.”