Providing infrastructure – in the broadest sense - to support inclusive economies is an emerging area of local policy making. This aspect of the inclusive economies agenda goes beyond traditional economic development in that there is generally a focus on ensuring that the infrastructure:
- facilitates the retention of profits and benefits in the local community
- targets economically excluded groups and places
- promotes inclusive economic activity and is restricted by some means to achieve this.
There are elements of this which are longstanding and well known to councils, such as using community asset transfers to provide community businesses with homes or supporting community businesses/social enterprises to set up to deliver local authority services.
Aside from building new infrastructure, councils are also leveraging their existing assets. Councils can use the control they have over buildings they own (including commercial property), as shareholders in companies, through local authority trading companies, and other areas of ownership.
The importance of councils understanding what their assets are is clear as well as seeking to maximise their usefulness for the inclusive economy agenda.
It is important that councils continue to lay the ground to access levers even if development is not forthcoming for a period of time given the current COVID-19 context.
With respect to leveraging existing assets, this may become more important to hep kickstart local economic activity and ensuring that inclusive principles are built into recovery.
- Building, obtaining, and leveraging economic infrastructure can help councils retain wealth in the local area, target those most affected by economic exclusion, and directly shape activity to be more inclusive.
- Direct ownership over economic assets gives councils direct control over aspects of a more inclusive economy like living wages, good working conditions, and local supply chain expenditure.
- Even during economic downturns councils can encourage more inclusive economies to emerge and they can support or invest in co-operatives and the social economy which tend to be more resilient in economic downturns.