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Why Michael Sheen thinks a political answer could be in Preston

Posted on - 12th April, 2017 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - News, Politics, Preston Council, UCLan
Michael Sheen visiting the University of Central Lancashire
Michael Sheen visiting the University of Central Lancashire

Hollywood actor Michael Sheen was in Preston to pick up some political tips.

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The star of stage and screen, who has expressed a keen interest in all things political,  said he wanted to learn how Preston City Council’s economic plan worked.

He joined shadow chancellor Labour MP John McDonnell at an event at the University of Central Lancashire.

The city council has claimed it is starting a ‘financial revolution’ by using a financial model they say is better at keeping pounds spent in the local economy.

Mr Sheen OBE said: “I first read about what was happening in Preston through recent media coverage and it got me really interested to find out more. I was excited to hear the journey they’ve been on and to explore what other communities, like my hometown of Port Talbot, might be able to learn about drawing on that approach.

“This week I’ve been announced as the new Patron of Social Enterprise UK, so it feels right to be in Preston looking at how institutions can help grow a truly social, local economy and support empowering the people of our communities. The way the Preston model uses the Social Value Act is inspiring and should provide encouragement to towns across the U.K. that this is possible.

“I’m really pleased to see high level political interest in these ideas with John McDonnell also visiting on the same day and I hope all political parties invest time in understanding where cooperatives, social enterprises and the wider social economy can provide real solutions to the wide array of challenges facing our communities.”

Read more: Elections to be held for two Preston council seats

Part of the Preston model is said to be modelled on what happened in Cleveland in the United States – where major partner institutions joined a co-operative to work together on major projects.

Preston City Council has been working with Lancashire County Council, UCLan, Cardinal Newman College, Preston’s College, Lancashire Constabulary and Community Gateway on the scheme.

Cabinet member for social justice, inclusion and policy at the city council councillor Matthew Brown said: We are privileged Michael Sheen and John McDonnell with their commitment to social campaigning and economic justice have taken time out of their busy schedules to learn how we are building community wealth in Preston and Lancashire.

“When existing economic approaches are failing people new ways to democratise local economies and ripple existing wealth into our communities are gaining significant interest.

“Community Wealth Building is a collaborative approach involving many place based institutions including Lancashire County Council who themselves pay the real living wage and are also committed to spending more on goods and services to benefit local people and businesses. Additional ideas around community banking, energy democracy and expanding the cooperative economy show community wealth building could be transformative both here and elsewhere in the country.”

John McDonnell speaking at UCLan
John McDonnell speaking at UCLan

It was the shadow chancellor’s second visit in recent months to the city as he continues to heap praise on the economic plan for Preston.

Read more: How begging banning orders are working in Preston city centre

He said: “I’m very pleased to be in Preston again as I think the council here has provided a model of how an innovative Labour council can act creatively to build a richer local community.”

What do you think about Sheen’s comments? And the Preston plan? Let us know your views in the comments below

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