Good morning from New Economy Brief. 

As we explored back in January, the outlook for local authority finances is pretty dire. Many are going bankrupt, and services are being squeezed as a result. With central government looking unlikely to give councils a boost any time soon, the situation often feels hopeless. 

But is it? Abundance, a new organisation launched this month, might have the answer. Public-Common Partnerships, its first major report suggests, “can reduce the public sector´s vulnerability to the pressures of private economic power and to the 4-year political-electoral cycle”. The report asks what the UK could learn from European “new municipalism” and how this could affect the “fight for democratic renewal and a just transition”.


The model.

Public-Common Partnerships (PCPs, sometimes called public-civic or public-community partnerships) are, in Abundance’s words, “a way for organized communities, working in partnership with relevant public bodies, to gain ownership and control over the assets and resources (buildings, enterprises, farms) which impact their lives”. As outlined in Common Wealth’s seminal report on PCPs back in 2019, this means co-ownership between a state authority and a “Commoners Association”, who would steer the project alongside a third group made up of others with an interest in it, such as trade unions and relevant experts. Beyond this framework of co-ownership, Common Wealth thinks PCPs could take many different forms and should “emerge as an overlapping patchwork of institutions that respond to the peculiarities of the asset concerned”. In other words, PCPs are not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Democracy. PCPs are a response to the privatisation and marketisation of utilities and resources, but they rely far more heavily on direct community involvement and democracy than outright state ownership. As the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) states, a PCP’s goal is not for local authorities or institutions to “‘own more land’, but instead to ensure that the land they do own is run by and for the people”.

The shadow of PPPs. If PCPs sound a little familiar, but not quite, you might be thinking of public-private partnerships, or PPPs. In many ways, PCPs have arisen in response to the problems these partnerships between government and the private sector caused. According to Common Wealth, PPPs have led to a massive transfer of public wealth to private companies and their owners – a transfer that is still underway, with payments set to exceed £199 billion by the 2040s. 


Case studies.

Abundance’s report draws heavily on international examples, particularly those of Barcelona and Naples. Can Batlló, a 13,000 square metre former industrial complex in La Bordeta, Barcelona, is home to 30 community initiatives including bars, a community garden, sports facilities and a publishing house. It employs around 400 people and is used by more than 50,000 people. The projects are linked by a coordination committee and a weekly general assembly open to anyone from the neighbourhood. In Naples, a 16th-century building known as L’Asilo is run by democratic citizens’ assemblies, a governance model now officially recognised by Naples City Council. You can read more about both projects in Abundance’s report


The impact.

For Abundance, the case for PCPs is more urgent than ever. With the advent of Bidenomics and the need for much greater state intervention to tackle the dual crises of low growth and climate catastrophe, the politics of state-led investment will only become more salient. But while this is generally debated at a national level, Abundance argues that local investment decisions will become increasingly politicised, too. It warns of a “technocratically managed green transition” dominated by PPPs, in which public wealth is transferred to private companies and by extension to the very richest. Also, in the context of cash-strapped councils being urged to rapidly sell off assets, PCPs could be a much needed intervention to avoid wealth extraction from communities. 

How would they happen? It is difficult to predict PCPs’ future in the UK, given that they are usually established organically in response to community need and are reliant on the will of local government and local community. Often, PCPs arise from years’ long struggles against private investment in the local area. Examples in the UK include the Wards Corner Community Plan, an ongoing proposal for the community-led and community-owned refurbishment of an indoor market in Tottenham. Following a 20-year local battle against the demolition of Wards Corner to build unaffordable luxury flats and chain stores, the private developer has now backed out of the project with the local authority, Haringey Council, stating their commitment to a community-led future for Wards Corner. See more UK case studies here.

Weekly Updates


Why are people leaving the job market? Economist David Spencer has written a piece in the Conversation on why economic inactivity is rising in the UK. He argues that there are multiple overlapping causes: “The millions of people not looking for work in the UK may be prioritising education, health and freedom…it may be that the levels of economic inactivity right now merely show how far we are from being a society which actually supports its citizens’ wellbeing."

4ugust. Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign have launched 4ugust; a campaign to encourage organisations to undertake a mini-trial of a four-day working week in August, while keeping salaries the same. 


Housing crisis in the ‘anglosphere’. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is publishing a series of reports on the housing crisis in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The first surveys the scale of the problem, looking at  homeownership, private renting, social housing and homelessness.

Industrial strategy

A UK Sovereign Wealth Fund? Civitas has published a collection of essays exploring proposals for the UK to set up its own Sovereign Wealth Fund – a state-owned investment vehicle which generates returns for the government and citizens. There are contributions from Conservative MP John Penrose, who argues that a British Sovereign Wealth Fund could be an ‘anchor investor’ for entrepreneurs and startups, and Labour MP Liam Byrne, who believes it could reduce wealth inequality.


Declining living standards since 2019. Autonomy has published a paper exploring declining living standards over the past four years, breaking down changes in average wages by region and constituency. The researchers found that all UK regions are worse off in real terms than they were in 2019, while real wages have fallen in 77% of constituencies.