Localise the West Midlands – NOW!

With politically motivated disruptions to the globalised trading system increasing the risk of another global crash; Localise West Midlands continues to advocate a radical decentralisation of capital and power to local economies, to help build a more economically resilient, socially inclusive, redistributive and prosperous West Midlands.

In 2013 Localise West Midlands published a literature review into existing evidence around the social benefits of more localised economies. We were surprised to find how little research had been done into localised economies before, so the review was significant and innovative in bringing this evidence together.

The review identified strong evidence that local economies with higher levels of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local ownership performed better in terms of employment growth (especially in disadvantaged and peripheral areas), social and economic inclusion, income redistribution, health, civic engagement, wellbeing, local distinctiveness, and cultural diversity. They also benefited more from the local multiplier effect, where greater economic returns are generated by spending money at locally-owned independent businesses, instead of corporate chains where all profit leaves an area.

Some of the key findings:

  • The public cost per job is 80% higher for Foreign Direct Investment than for indigenous businesses
  • 92% of movements from unemployment or non-participation in the private sector are down to SMEs
  • 2/3rds of the world economy is controlled by 500 companies accounting for only 1% of employment
  • In a study of 3,000 US counties, those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses had greater per capita income growth between 2000 & 2007

The research found that localised economies deliver better on job creation than more centralised approaches; this was particularly true in disadvantaged and peripheral areas. They also deliver better on resilience, stability and economic returns to an area.

One interesting finding was that centralised and remotely owned economic development does deliver better pay and formal conditions than localised economic development. But more localised economies offer a better quality of life, improved job satisfaction and more security for the workforce), with higher rates of civic participation and local economic power.


Read the 40 page literature review on our website for more information and a list of valuable sources.






GMB: developing strong British supply chains will be socially, environmentally and economically beneficial


Localise West Midlandsformer chairman George Morran has focussed on the UK’s dependency on the manufacture of arms, while at the same time being forced to import trains, trams and other manufactured goods from abroad. He asked: “Would it not be possible – with the level of Government support currently given to BAE and its supply chain – to fill some of these more local needs?”

In similar vein, Jude Brimble (below right), the GMB’s national secretary for manufacturing,* urges support for the manufacturing sector.

She criticises successive governments for the lack of investment and the tendering processes that hamper home-grown businesses adding, “Whoever wins the next election must develop a procurement strategy supporting UK industry, build strong British supply chains and a balanced energy policy to keep our country’s lights on”.

In November a particular case was cited. New ships are to be built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, a civilian-manned fleet owned by the MoD to support the Royal Navy by supplying fuel, ammunition and supplies, normally at sea and transporting soldiers and Royal Marines.

Jude said: “The Royal Fleet Auxiliary contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential”, pointing out that ministers are giving away this key by allowing overseas companies to bid on major contracts.

She added: “Against the backdrop of Brexit, the government should be fighting for the defence and growth of as much decent work as possible, not hiving off huge skilled manufacturing opportunities to international competitors for the lowest cost possible.

The decision comes despite the recommendations of the Parker Report, which informed the National Shipbuilding Strategy unveiled by then defence secretary Michael Fallon two months ago, and the views of Sir John Parker (below) aiming for a “renaissance” in the sector:

Campaign leaflet: THE MAKING IT CHARTER

We call on all governments of the UK to: ​

  • Invest in manufacturing – and create an environment that encourages manufacturing employers to invest.
  • Buy for Britain – we need a procurement strategy that supports UK industries and supported employment.
  • Negotiate trade deals that deliver for workers and industry, avoiding damaging tariffs on British goods.
  • Build strong UK-based supply chains to support local communities.
  • Support equality and inclusion by tackling barriers to work wherever they exist.
  • Invest in skills, research and development, and the technologies of tomorrow.
  • Pursue a balanced energy policy that provides sustainability and security for the UK and our nation’s industries.

And, it should be added, the development of strong British supply chains will reduce the high carbon dioxide emissions caused by transporting  imports.

*Jude, a former Community Mental Health Practitioner, has been involved in school workforce re-organisation, local government reform and Skills for Security since joining the GMB staff.









Summarising ‘Re-energising Manufacturing’a report by  David Powell, Aidan Harper and Margaret Welsh (New Economics Foundation) 

Scotland has seen rapid growth in renewable energy over the last decade, principally from onshore wind. Approximately 4,500 full-time equivalent manufacturing jobs are supported by the low-carbon and renewable sectors in Scotland.

The coming decades will see demand for electricity continue to grow while existing renewable energy sites will need to be upgraded and replaced. Scotland could cement its position as a net exporter of clean energy to the rest of the UK, and the Scottish Government’s support for a Green New Deal – which would use the full levers of the state to deliver public investment in green jobs – could be a major boon to the country’s domestic manufacturing sector.

But far more of the economic value of the supply chains of renewable energy installed in Scotland could be retained in Scotland.

The UK’s historic approach to both energy policy and industrial strategy more broadly has undermined domestic supply chains. Scottish industry is competing with companies based where energy skills and renewable supply chain development have been taken seriously for years, or are competing against overseas state-backed companies. Unions point to an overall trade deficit in Scotland’s low carbon and renewable sector.

The Scottish Government should act to keep domestic demand high and also to support supply chains from Scottish industry

The Scottish Government should match its aspirations to be a world leader on climate action with more direct support for domestic manufacturing for its future renewables growth. This means acting both to keep domestic demand high and also to support supply chains from Scottish industry. Business as usual will not suffice; no matter what type of manufacturing the government might seek to support, it is going against the headwinds of the UK’s economic model over the last 40 years, where laissez-faire economic policy, many decades of a lack of genuine industrial strategy, and the retreat of the state from directly supporting keystone industries, is coming home to roost. 


Establish a new Scottish Energy Development Agency (SEDA).

This would help to implement the Green New Deal, ensuring institutional alignment on supporting Scottish green jobs across the public sector, from skills to procurement, subsidy to grant investment – working with the National Investment Bank.

Support domestic demand for renewables for the long-term.

Scotland’s domestic renewable energy target should be expanded from the current 100% to 200% of its needs by 2030. This target should be supported by sub-targets for specific sectors such as tidal and marine energy (ie, 1GW installed capacity of tidal energy by 2030) with grant funding provided to support deployment to that level. As Scotland does not control the subsidy (Contracts for Difference) regime it must continue to pressure Westminster to ensure the regime does not discriminate against small-scale renewables or onshore wind, and to attach local content requirements as a condition for the receipt of national subsidy.

Stimulate local supply of domestic content

Conditions should be set for local content in all areas that the Scottish Government controls – for example, the operation of the Crown Estate, which licenses the sea bed for offshore wind, is devolved to Scotland. Ministers should establish a centre of excellence skills programme for manufacturing, and extend and strengthen the remit of the planned Publicly Owned Energy Company to enable it to directly support energy supply, generation, and distribution, as well as supporting local cooperatives and smaller companies.

Localise industrial strategy

More powers should be given to regions and localities to set out financed plans for local industrial transformation, via processes that are more democratic than those led by Local Economic Partnerships.

Provide supportive finance

The Scottish National Investment Bank must be given a coherent ​ ‘Green New Deal’ mission that aligns it to the work of the SEDA. Its mandate must specifically ensure it can support the development of Scottish supply chains in low-carbon industry and that its lending is consistent with delivering a ​ ‘just transition’. Representatives of manufacturing, including trade unions, should form part of the Bank’s board.

Embed a Just Transition for workers into industrial strategy

A Just Transition Fund should be created which would provide the time and resources workers need to proactively engage with the realities of the low carbon transition, and the principles of the Just Transition should be central to the remit of all agencies including a SEDA.

Finally, the existing Just Transition Commission should be placed on a statutory footing within the Climate Change Bill.

Their report may be downloaded here.






Insourcing: Labour has pledged that public authorities will choose local workers, goods and services

Under Margaret Thatcher compulsory competitive tendering was introduced in the 1980s and was continued by New Labour. Now attitudes seem to be hardening against contracting out. “What we are seeing is a 40-year experiment in public service delivery being put under the microscope,” says Tom Sasse, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government.

Lauren Cassidy points out that in 2017, the Labour manifesto made two pledges that have been little discussed, and largely overlooked; pledges – when implemented – that would change the face of public procurement for the better.

  • The Labour party has pledged that under a Labour government all frontline services would be provided by the public sector, from railways to social care (p.19).
  • Organisations seeking public contracts under a Labour government should be covered by the Freedom of Information Act, making them accountable for the services they are paid to deliver on behalf of the public (p.102).

According to a recent report by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE, below left), 78% of local authorities believe that insourcing gives them more flexibility, two-thirds say it also saves money, and more than half say it has improved the quality of the service while simplifying how it is managed.

The example of Stoke – one of six case studies – was presented. The council has created a wholly owned trading company, Unitas, to allow the housing repair team to bid for other contracts and generate profits. “Last year we returned £4.6m to the council and provided an improved service,” says Steve Wilson, operations director of Unitas Stoke Now all repairs, maintenance and home improvements to the council’s housing stock, as well as public building maintenance, are in-house.

“Rather than line shareholders’ pockets, this approach has generated income for the council, improved customer service and staff morale,” says Carl Brazier, director of housing and customer services at Stoke city council.

Steven Griggs, professor of public policy at the local governance research centre at De Montfort University, said “Insourcing . . . keeps the public pound in the local economy and provides opportunities to work with small- and medium-sized businesses to strengthen local supply chains.”

The Conservative government is also looking again at outsourcing, renationalising probation services after outsourcing failed. And in the NHS, the cervical cancer screening programme for England will be brought back into the health service later this year, after Capita failed to send more than 40,000 women screening invitations and reminder letters to have a smear test.

Lauren Cassidy concludes that executed correctly, insourcing or inhousing will be integral to the next Labour government, creating a society in which workers will hold power and value and every penny of public money is truly accounted for.

Note also John McDonnell’s Labour Party document, Democratising Local Public Services: A Plan for Twenty-First Century Insourcing and Richard Hatcher’s nine page paper, which ends by calling on Birmingham City Council to publish its plans to bring its out-sourced social care services in-house.






Planet Local & the International Alliance for Localisation: Helena Norberg-Hodge

Helena Norberg Hodge, co-founder of Local Futures, helped to introduce farmers’ markers and box schemes in this country. She explains: “Localization is not about eliminating international trade, or reducing all economic activity to a village level, but about shifting the power from transnational corporations to nation states, while simultaneously building up regional self-reliance”. 

Two Local Futures initiatives

Planet Local is a web series showcasing inspiring localization initiatives from around the world. It highlights diverse examples of localization in action in such areas as community renewable energy, local food and farming, local economy, eco-villages, alternative education, radical democracy, the local commons, and more.

Planet Local demonstrates that the movement for localization is broader and more diverse than many people realize, manifesting as a powerful mosaic of small-scale solutions happening on a planet-wide scale. The series aims to inspire a politics of hope, grounded in actual existing projects that too often go unnoticed by the mainstream media.


People and groups from 58 different countries have joined the International Alliance

The International Alliance for Localisation (IAL) was originally conceived as a way to formalise and expand this informal network of groups and individuals who are working on issues that fall under the broad umbrella of this global-to-local shift network. The hope is that the IAL will help to catalyse a powerful global movement for localisation.

The general public and even most local groups themselves are often unaware that they are, in fact, part of a rapidly growing worldwide localisation movement. We believe that linking together these groups that are currently operating in isolation can greatly strengthen them all.

Here are some of the key individuals who have been part of the consensus-building process:

  • Michael Shuman, one of the first economists to promote localisation;
  • Camila Moreno, a Brazilian trade and agriculture activist;
  • Bayo Akomolafe, a Nigerian writer, researcher and storyteller;
  • Manish Jain, an ‘unlearning’ advocate and co-founder of India’s Swaraj University;
  • Carlo Sibilia, a member of Italy’s 5 Star Movement;
  • Keibo Oiwa, a leader of Japan’s ‘Slow Life’ movement;
  • Yoji Kamata, founder of the Ancient Futures Association of Japan;
  • Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity;
  • Judy Wicks, co-founder of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies);
  • Carol Black, director and editor of the film Schooling the World;
  • Richard Heinberg, ‘peak oil’ expert and author;
  • Ross Jackson, founder of the Global Ecovillage Network;
  • and Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

The mission of the IAL is to facilitate dialogue and collaboration among the groups and individuals who are engaged in grass-roots localisation initiatives and to enable this diverse localisation movement to speak with a more unified voice in resistance to further globalisation – one loud and powerful enough to break through the ‘noise’ of corporate-dominated political and economic discourse.





Re-localising: a global manifesto: Colin Hines

In a 2002 letter to the Guardian, Colin Hines (right) commented on the huge social and environmental costs of ‘economic globalisation’.

He described it as a system ‘peddled by flat earthers’ which is increasing insecurity in the wealthier countries and rampant inequality in the Third World and Eastern Europe. It’s based on the preposterous idea that everyone can win from forcing every country to contort its economy to provide the cheapest exports. Parasitical speculators gamble on the futures markets – usually  profiting from a ‘boom and bust’ in commodities. The latest example was reported in the Financial Times in May this year (2019): ‘a massive oversupply in the coffee market . . .This has surpassed an economic crisis. People are moving away [from the farms]. They are absolutely heartbroken”.

Hines presents an alternative to this damaging globalisation process – ‘Localisation’

Under this system, the emphasis shifts to an internationally supportive end goal of protecting and rebuilding local economies world-wide,    encouraging the flow of technology, managerial skills and limited funds in order to help to nurture local economies, not wreck them.

In his widely cited book, Localisation, a global manifesto, he wrote about concrete localist policies from all round the world, that can make such a necessary transformation occur, adding: “The jolts to the increasingly discredited globalisation system are coming thick and fast”.

Now, seventeen years later, as concern about climate change grows, many are far more aware of the profoundly damaging social and environmental consequences of economic globalisation.