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11 Aug 2022

Community Wealth Building can unleash district’s potential 

Community Wealth Building can unleash district’s potential – Cllr Brian McGuigan

Sinn Féin councillor, Brian McGuigan

Sinn Féin councillor, Brian McGuigan, has told the County Derry Post that his Community Wealth Building motion recently adopted by Mid-Ulster Council creates a “potent sense of optimism, excitement, possibility and hope, while illuminating how new democratic approaches to our economy can work in practice and generate solutions to longstanding economic challenges faced by local communities.”

Cllr McGuigan proposing his motion last week said that it “commits Council to developing a fully funded community wealth building framework with the purpose of democratising our district’s economy by empowering community organisations, non-profits, social enterprise and co-operatives to be established or expanded with the ambition to create employment and grow local economies”

He further stated that it was presented at a time of “great economic disruption caused to communities across Mid-Ulster by Covid-19 public health emergency, periods of economic recession and Tory austerity, while taking fully into consideration the current cost of living crisis, as well as long-standing economic problems across our district for many of our workers, families and communities, including inequality, low paid employment, poor rates of socially ineffective investment, deprivation and unsustainable levels of carbon emissions and ecological damage.”

The elected representative for Carntogher DEA also commended his party colleague, Minister for Communities, Deirdre Hargey’s efforts to establish a departmental advisory group to embed and deliver Community Wealth Building which centres on a more just and fair labour market.

It also focuses on an inclusive economy and ensuring land and property generate wealth for people who live there.

Councillor McGuigan continued: “Community Wealth Building is a powerful alternative model for economic development.  It seeks to leverage existing local and regional resources to provide workers, families and communities with greater control over their own economic development.

“The model of Community Wealth Building has proven to be very successful in large cities, towns and rural areas in Preston in England, North Ayrshire in Scotland and in Cleveland in the United States. Dozens of towns and cities across the US and Britain have formally adopted Community Wealth Building strategies with tremendous results for their local economy and communities.

“Here in the North of Ireland specifically, Tory Austerity and a denial of basic economic competencies have stifled economic development.

"Therefore, we need to be bold in setting out a new approach for our local economy where we ensure we retain our local resources and initiative to keep good employment, the wealth of our communities, and socially beneficial investment in our communities.

“In short, Community Wealth Building has the potential to deliver lasting and progressive change to our local economy to make fairer, more sustainable, and vibrant communities.

The five key pillars to any Community Wealth Building proposal are:

  • Make financial power work for people, local towns and communities by retaining as much of that wealth as we can through local supply chains and targeted procurement contracts.
  • Work with key institutions (commercial, public and semi-state) to create local employment and set a standard for high quality, sustainable jobs.
  • Utilise all land and assets in our communities to generate wealth and resources for the people who live there.
  • Develop an inclusive economy with social forms of ownership like co-operatives.
  • Reduce our carbon footprint by establishing shorter supply chains and greater local employment.

“By adopting this motion, Mid-Ulster Council will now seek to advance these economic principles through Council, in co-operation with our communities, through coherent and ambitious economic strategy.

"Community Wealth Building is about working in partnership with communities and businesses to build a more resilient economy that works for local people, which supports fair work and uses land in the region for the benefit of people that live there. Economic strategies obsessed with growth alone have shown themselves to have limited benefits and can be environmentally unsustainable.

“We will be planning to develop our economies in such a way that wealth is added to our communities and not extracted.”

Concluding his comments, Councillor McGuigan reiterated his firmly held belief that Community Wealth Building has the potential to maximise the unleashed potential of every village, town and community across Mid-Ulster and indeed throughout Ireland.

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