LEADERS from the region recently gathered at a Grangemouth event to discuss how community wealth building can revitalise communities across the Forth Valley.

Clacks Council leader Cllr Ellen Forson was among the 180 people joining community wealth and public finance minister Tom Arthur to share knowledge and take part in workshops to understand how to bring the work to communities.

A community wealth building (CWB) approach leverages the influence of anchor institutions, including councils, the NHS, universities and colleges to support the local economy and retain wealth and investment in the area.

The Wee County has been one of the first to adopt this approach four years ago in a bid to support the delivery of a wellbeing economy.

Since then, there has been a four per cent increase in council procurement conducted in Clackmannanshire while work has been ongoing to embed community wealth building into Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal activities.

A good employment charter has also been developed, among a wide range of other measures, with the council seeking to take the lead in the implementation of gender justice in the workplace.

Last month's event at Grangemouth Town Hall was a chance for representatives, including people from the community, to come together and hear first-hand about the ongoing work to help increase investment in the Wee County and wider Forth Valley.

Cllr Forson said: “It was a pleasure to attend the community wealth building event at Grangemouth with the minister and my Forth Valley colleagues, and to put the spotlight on CWB.

"CWB aims to ensure more wealth is generated, circulated and retained in our communities, and I am proud that Clackmannanshire was only the second council in Scotland to adopt this pioneering approach.

"I believe CWB has the potential to make a real and lasting difference to our area and with a focus on CWB, we are more determined than ever to make Clackmannanshire a better and fairer place to live.”

A range of organisations are playing a critical role in Clacks to deliver community wealth, including housing associations and private sector partners such as O-I or the Mulraney Group.

The council has also been working with Stirling and Falkirk counterparts to develop a regional economic strategy.

Tom Arthur, minister for community wealth and public finance, said: “The Scottish Government has embraced the community wealth building approach to economic development as a key way to support a thriving wellbeing economy. 

“We have seen great progress in delivering the approach, with local authorities and other public bodies working in partnership with communities and businesses to transform their local and regional economies.

“As a result, Scotland is being recognised as a global leader in implementing community wealth building.”

What is community wealth building?

In its 2020 report on community wealth building in Clackmannanshire, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) explained that the relatively small size of the Wee County means it is “nimble and should be well-placed to apply the principles of community wealth building as both a means to implementing the wellbeing economy agenda, and as a broader project that seeks to make Clackmannanshire’s local economy more prosperous and pluralistic”.

The report recognised that in the UK in 2020, one in eight workers lived in poverty and 1.3million people – including children – relied on foodbanks.

“These problems are not caused by a lack of wealth, but rather where wealth is going, who owns it and who benefits from it”, the report continued.

“Fuelling this inequality is the fact that the fruits of growth are often too readily extracted.

“At a local level, the prevailing model of economic development has often failed to engage with questions of wealth distribution, focusing instead on generating contributions to GDP.”

Emerging first in the USA, community wealth building has been developed as a powerful new approach to local economic development, the report explained.

The idea is to reorganise the local economy so that wealth is not extracted, but broadly held and generative, with local roots.

The approach seeks to ensure that income is recirculated with communities put first.

CWB calls for people to be provided with opportunity, dignity and wellbeing, hot-wiring social, economic and ecological benefits into the economy.

What activity has been taking place to share the wealth?

While Covid-19 no doubt had an effect in CWB activities, a range of assets have been transferred to communities in recent years, for example, as noted in a progress report.

Tullibody Community Development Trust has successfully completed the purchase of Tullibody Civic Centre in 2021, The Hive is now run by Dollar Community Development Trust while the Menstrie Community Action Group has ensured the survival of the Dumyat Centre through leasing arrangements.

In the case of the latter, a funding bid has enabled the car park for the centre to be developed and associated tourism infrastructure to be installed.

The Wimpy Park is also a great example with a 20 year lease in place with the community group there.

Alloa Hub is also up and running, operating as the Wee County's first community benefits society, growing out of the award-winning Living Alloa town centre project.