This is the local economies election

Preston bus station

This is a defining election for the economic destiny of people and local communities across the UK. From major cities to coastal towns, it’s now impossible to ignore that our local economies are failing to achieve social, economic, and environmental justice for the vast majority of people.

We hear much about how this is the “Brexit election”, with a major dividing line supposedly drawn between Leave and Remain. But the truth is that this is a local economies election. From Huyton to Hackney, it is now clearer than ever that we need a new social contract to achieve local economies that work for all.

In our manifesto, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) offers a suite of policies that, if implemented, would start to put a broken Britain and its local economies back together again. 

Covering wealth, power, public services and climate emergency, the manifesto is rooted in our 34 years of thinking and practical doing across the UK.  It reflects a fact that major parties are only now starting to wake up to: after years of austerity and tinkering around the edges, this country needs to transform our underlying political economy on a scale not seen since 1979, or even 1945.  

How can we start to replace Britain’s economic model with one that is more democratic, sustainable, and prosperous? First, we need an immediate response to the climate emergency. CLES endorses the transformative potential of the Green New Deal, and calls for every local and combined authority to produce mandatory variations, framed by both a new future generations and wellbeing act, and an end to GDP as the defining measure of economic success.

Secondly, it is time to scale up the community wealth building movement that is already helping to transform dozens of local areas such as Preston, Islington and North Ayrshire.  The much talked about Preston model has been stymied by significant practical and national policy barriers that could be assuaged with what we’ve called a community wealth building act. This landmark piece of legislation would set out how the government could utilise the full weight of its resources and power to build an inclusive economy based on community wealth building principles.

The act would strengthen democratic trade unions and introduce a land value tax in every locality.  In particular, we call for the introduction of a revolution in government procurement by introducing a social license to operate, a national accredited scheme for all existing and potential suppliers to the public sector. This would ensure that living wages, local jobs, zero carbon and responsible activity and supply is embedded in our public sector spending.

Beyond community wealth building, we must get serious about devolution. It’s time to end the imperfect English devolution process and the deep-rooted imbalances of power and wealth. CLES is advocating a wholescale constitutional shake up, including a new national redistribution process with new fiscal devolution for local areas.

Finally, we must end the attack on our public services after a decade of austerity and three decades of neoliberal economic policies. Over the last three decades, our local public services have fallen far. Thirty years of outsourcing and marketisation have combined with almost a decade of austerity to eviscerate our public services, with private sector management techniques and values imported into much of the UK public sector. Let’s end austerity, properly fund our local public services, and explore options for local municipal ownership of key assets

At CLES, we believe this is the most significant election in our history. With rampant poverty, growing inequality, and the climate emergency confronting us all, now is the time for radical action. Our manifesto offers policy solutions and pointers that will accelerate the green transformation and create inclusive local economies for all. We call upon the next government to take bold steps; the hour is too late, and too urgent, for anything less.

Neil McInroy is chief executive of CLES, the national organisation for local economies, developing progressive economics for people, planet and place. We work by thinking and doing, to achieve social justice and effective public services.


London’s rail and tube map is out of control

Aaaaaargh. Image: Getty.

The geographical limits of London’s official rail maps have always been slightly arbitrary. Far-flung commuter towns like Amersham, Chesham and Epping are all on there, because they have tube stations. Meanwhile, places like Esher or Walton-on-Thames – much closer to the city proper, inside the M25, and a contiguous part of the built up area – aren’t, because they fall outside the Greater London and aren’t served by Transport for London (TfL) services. This is pretty aggravating, but we are where we are.

But then a few years ago, TfL decided to show more non-London services on its combined Tube & Rail Map. It started with a few stations slightly outside the city limits, but where you could you use your Oyster card. Then said card started being accepted at Gatwick Airport station – and so, since how to get to a major airport is a fairly useful piece of information to impart to passengers, TfL’s cartographers added that line too, even though it meant including stations bloody miles away.

And now the latest version seems to have cast all logic to the wind. Look at this:

Oh, no. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

The logic for including the line to Reading is that it’s now served by TfL Rail, a route which will be part of the Elizabeth Line/Crossrail, when they eventually, finally happen. But you can tell something’s gone wrong here from the fact that showing the route, to a town which is well known for being directly west of London, requires an awkward right-angle which makes it look like the line turns north, presumably because otherwise there’d be no way of showing it on the map.

What’s more, this means that a station 36 miles from central London gets to be on the map, while Esher – barely a third of that distance out – doesn’t. Nor does Windsor & Eton Central, because it’s served by a branchline from Slough rather than TfL Rail trains, even though as a fairly major tourist destination it’d probably be the sort of place that at least some users of this map might want to know how to get to.

There’s more. Luton Airport Parkway is now on the map, presumably on the basis that Gatwick is. But that station doesn’t accept Oyster cards yet, so you get this:

Gah. Click to expand. Image: TfL.

There’s a line, incidentally, between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey, which is just down the road from St Albans City. Is that line shown on the map? No it is not.

Also not shown on the map: either Luton itself, just one stop up the line from Luton Airport Parkway, or Stansted Airport, even though it’s an airport and not much further out than places which are on the map. Somewhere that is, however, is Welwyn Garden City, which doesn’t accept Oyster, isn’t served by TfL trains and also – this feels important – isn’t an airport.

And meanwhile a large chunk of Surrey suburbia inside the M25 isn’t shown, even though it must have a greater claim to be a part of London’s rail network than bloody Reading.

The result of all these decisions is that the map covers an entirely baffling area whose shape makes no sense whatsoever. Here’s an extremely rough map:

Just, what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

I mean that’s just ridiculous isn’t it.

While we’re at it: the latest version shows the piers from which you can get boats on the Thames. Except for when it doesn’t because they’re not near a station – for example, Greenland Pier, just across the Thames to the west of the Isle of Dogs, shown here with CityMetric’s usual artistic flair.

Spot the missing pier. You can’t, because it’s missing. Image: TfL/CityMetric.

I’m sure there must be a logic to all of this. It’s just that I fear the logic is “what makes life easier for the TfL cartography team” rather than “what is actually valuable information for London’s rail passengers”.

And don’t even get me started on this monstrosity.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.