Council takes ''decisive step'' to build community wealth in Lewes district

Cabinet councillors today (Thursday, December 10) agreed an ambitious action plan to build local wealth in the Lewes district based on recommendations from a national economic thinktank report.

Lewes District Council made a commitment to community wealth building (CWB) in its Corporate Plan adopted in February 2020 and commissioned the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) to undertake a study over the summer involving in-depth interviews with council staff and partners.

CWB uses the combined power of organisations, businesses and communities to keep as much wealth as possible in the local economy through the creation of new jobs and new locally owned enterprise.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, said: "We sought CLES expertise to show us how the council can deliver on its community wealth building commitment going forward and its valuable recommendations from the basis of our Reimagining Lewes District Action Plan.

"It is encouraging that CLES considered that the council was already taking a strong approach in this direction however a more joined-up strategy was needed and as a result, our aspirations, efforts and successes so far have been drawn together in this wide-ranging action plan.

"This marks a decisive step towards reshaping the Lewes district economy as we emerge from the pandemic into one that retains wealth locally, is more sustainable, greener and brings greater benefits for people living here."

Actions already achieved to promote local wealth building include procuring a new East Sussex-based social enterprise for the management of Newhaven Enterprise Centre earlier this year; ongoing delivery of the Local Enterprise & Apprenticeship Platform (LEAP) to provide local skills needed to start and grow a business locally and provide advice to existing businesses; creation of "Eatlocal" and "Shopslocal" websites to promote local suppliers, producers and independent retailers with a "MakeLocal" website also underway to support the local creative and manufacturing sectors.

The Reimagining Lewes District Action Plan will be embedded into the plans of relevant departments and put into practice as part of the council's core business.

Initial activities include setting up an internal board to oversee the delivery of the plan and nomination of Councillor Nicholson and Ian Fitzpatrick, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Regeneration and Planning, as CWB champions.

Councillor Nicholson added: "Alongside this we will continue to work closely with our partners - particularly through our Recovery Summits - on this approach for the district."

The council has run two Recovery Summits, in March and October of this year, engaging with key local organisations to discuss how challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic could be tackled in a way which builds community wealth.

A third event is planned for February 2021.