Leader of Preston City Council, Councillor Matthew Brown, has responded to criticism of his new book Paint Your Town Red.Advertisement
Co-authored by writer and historian Rhian E. Jones, the book tells the inside story of The Preston Model, and covers Labour-led Preston City Council’s use of Community Wealth Building in recent years.
Although the book has received positive reviews in some quarters, former Liberal Democrat Councillor and Honorary Alderman of the City of Preston, Bill Shannon, disagrees with the praise.
In a guest post for Blog Preston, former Councillor Shannon says the approach outlined in the book will lead to the demise of The Preston Model.
Opinion: The Preston Model is tainted by party politics and set to fail
He says the book has a ‘lack of evidence’, ‘claims credit for the achievements of others’, and ‘alienates those local and national business people whose input and engagement is essential to the model’.
Former Councillor Shannon continues: “By talking of ‘Painting Your Town Red’ and linking The Preston Model so closely with socialism, Matthew is ensuring the idea will fail the next time another party takes over Preston Town Hall. If it is to succeed despite changes in the political make-up, Community Wealth Building must be de-politicised.”
Councillor Brown has hit back against the criticism in a statement provided to Blog Preston.
He said: “Rhian and I wrote Paint Your Town Red to ensure the story of the Preston Model was accurately reported but importantly explain the trends in a Community Wealth Building movement capturing the imagination in a number of regions of the UK as well as overseas. It has always been my position that the inequalities we need to address are so entrenched that we must seek transformative change in our communities.
“Whilst I have always been radical I am also pragmatic ensuring we have broad support to build fairer communities by collaborating with Preston’s large institutions especially. It is sad the criticism does not acknowledge the benefits in terms of employees receiving pay rises as a result of our support for the real living wage, tens of millions in public contracts won by local businesses, new affordable housing we helped facilitated and ensuring our city centre is now regenerated successfully by collective endeavour.
“Ultimately, much of this change has come from political leadership with Preston’s Labour Council securing millions in partnership funding to establish new cooperatives and a regional cooperative bank alongside completing the regeneration of our city including the ‘Animate’ cinema and leisure development in city ownership which will create over 1,000 jobs.
“We want to go even further by encouraging recruitment in areas of high unemployment, promote a network of food purchasing co-ops to reduce household bills and tackle the climate emergency. The aim is to address the structural inequalities the pandemic exposed as we seek to recover from it with Preston Model policies. This is far more important than the debate about my book.
“I am more than happy to have a conversation with former Councillor Shannon and anyone else to build broad support for the change in Preston we want to see. It always has needed the work of many hands as part of a broad coalition but ultimately political parties seek power to implement a set of policies that will benefit their communities.
“In terms of electoral performance the Liberal Democrat’s number of seats on Preston City Council reduced to seven in May’s local elections whilst the Labour Party bucked the trend retaining its number at 30. This was in part due to our vision and ambition for the city. It will be some years before they have the prospect of being in power locally so my door is always open for an adult conversation rather than engaging in labelling and personal criticism.”
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines
Have you read Paint Your Town Red? What do you think of The Preston Model? Let us know in the comments.