It was the autumn of 2018 when I wrote about ‘Keeping the Harlow £ in Harlow’ and the importance of community wealth building; see link to Your Harlow archive below:

Blogspot: Reflections On Labour Co-Operative Conference

At that time, I wrote about Harlowsave who provide a financial service for our community to help rid the town of Loan Sharks and Pay Day Loan providers. Whist Credit Unions are run on co-operative principles to promote community wealth, other services using these principles can be seen within Energy & Environment, Housing, Transport, Social Care to Funeral Services.

The Preston model was a forerunner in this movement after the banking crisis in 2008.  It is therefore important to reflect that the Labour run administration of Harlow District Council, developed HTS to replace Kier to ensure any profits are returned to the residents of Harlow rather than to the pockets of shareholders; this was a crucial step to purchasing locally so Harlow residents’ benefit.

Community wealth building at its best will help to tackle inequality by ensuring economic development is shared amongst its residents and will show the Harlow community matters more – than maximising profit. These principles are as follows:

  • Local ownership
  • Real participation and collective decision making
  • Maximise the multiplier effect, a purchase in Harlow stays in the community longer
  • Purchase locally so Harlow residents and the community benefit
  • Invest locally
  • Collaboration matters with all our stakeholders, residents and disadvantaged groups
  • Harlow matters – an intentional place-based strategy to ensure local assets work to build local wealth
    Community wealth building, 1st steps to transforming locally

With Covid-19, now, more than ever we need to ensure community wealth building principles are central to our decision making. We have seen some local businesses being creative and adapting to meet the needs of residents during this pandemic.  There has been a fantastic response from local volunteers working through NHS responders and the local Community Hub. We need to build on the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to take our community forward for the benefit of all residents and not a few.  With the full financial impact of Covid-19 and employment still unknown, we need to ensure those who have already suffered due to BAME health inequalities, the elderly and disabled are not impacted further. New groups including the rise of in-work poverty, the #shielded group where massive gaps in provision have been identified, the emotional and mental health impact are all critical. In addition, it is essential new opportunities for young adults provide a pathway for the future, particularly those whose education has been disrupted whilst leaving school or part way through university placements and decisions.

The new Covid-19 Recovery Working Group, chaired by Cllr Eugenie Harvey, Portfolio Holder for Recovery and Resilience will be taking this cross-party working group forward.  The group will look in detail at how we recover from the pandemic and how we will continue supporting residents, businesses and community groups in the future, we can do this by ‘Keeping the Harlow £ in Harlow’.

Frances L Mason
Labour and Co-operative Councillor
Toddbrook ward

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