Could a new regional co-op bank tackle poverty in Belfast?

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Derek Whyte, left, and Matthew Brown

By Una Murphy

TWO men who have spearheaded the ‘Preston Model’ of promoting growth in the local economy have paid a visit to Belfast to advise on community wealth building.

With 28 per cent of children in Belfast growing up in poverty and more than 56,000 residents in the city living in poverty, the local council has developed plans to boost an inclusive economy to tackle deprivation and “connect all residents with economic growth”.

Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council and Derek Whyte, who has just stepped down from the council and is now an independent policy adviser, spoke to VIEWdigital about the Preston Model – which has made the city’s economy more resilient through encouraging local procurement by local organisations to developing worker owned cooperatives.

Speaking following a meeting at Belfast City Hall, organised by the local charity Development Trusts NI (DTNI), Matthew said that the Preston Model was a series of ideas including a living wage and using credit unions.

“It is about having more democracy in the economy and local people deciding how to do that.”

Use of Pension Funds, divesting from fossil fuels, municipal purchasing, were all proposals which could be considered to ensure inclusive growth to boost the local economy, they told VIEWdigital.

They said that the choice of where you want to invest within the local economy to produce most impact is key and said that regional coop banks as well as credit unions were working to make an impact through their investments in different areas of England.

Wales is also striving to grow inclusive local economies, they said, with a government commitment to maximise the benefits of the local pound. The aim of this new Welsh government project the Foundational Economy Challenge Funds is to find ways to keep money in communities, create better employment conditions and increase prosperity. This is done through a focus on the goods and services used every day within local communities.

The event was attended by around 50 delegates, representing local and central government and the third sector, including DTNI members (e.g. NOW Group, Ardoyne Youth Enterprises, Resurgam Trust and Ashton Community Trust).

DTNI is calling for a compact between local authorities and community anchor organisation to shape the agenda for community wealth and achieve real economic regeneration.

In Belfast the council has said that: “For Belfast City Council inclusive growth means building a new story for Belfast, ensuring the success of the city reaches every citizen.”

The first ever community plan, the Belfast Agenda, was published in 2017. See

The council is currently consulting on the draft Inclusive Growth Strategy. See


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