Levelling up versus democratic localism

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2022 Number 80

Levelling up versus democratic localism
Rhian E. Jones pages 22-36
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.80.02.2022


The Johnson government’s pledge to ‘level up’ in response to regional inequality has been derided for its continuing lack of political substance. Responses from the Labour Party leadership have tended to ignore the development in several parts of the UK of approaches focusing on democratic localism or ‘community wealth building’, in which local leaders, groups and communities in neglected or ‘left behind’ areas are not only achieving central aspects of what ‘levelling up’ promises, but doing so with more progressive principles and intentions than those that underpin the Tory-led project. The obvious example of this is the ‘Preston Model’, a project brought in over the past decade by a Labour-led city council. While some criticisms of the Preston Model and community wealth building are misconceived, others are valid areas of question or concern for the left, in particular those that centre on the democratic nature of these economic experiments, and the risk that their focus on the spending policies of local or regional authorities ignores the potential for genuinely democratic community decision-making. This article looks at the extent to which community wealth building has integrated or accommodated these concerns; the potential for doing so in future iterations of the strategy; and how a focus on these alternative strategies could offer a path to renewal for the Labour Party nationally.

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To cite this article
Rhian E. Jones (2022) Levelling up versus democratic localism, Soundings, 2022(80), 22-36. https://doi.org/10.3898/SOUN.80.02.2022

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