Our aim was to learn from lessons from Matthew and the "Preston Model" for Newham. Matthew took us around a number of CWB related developments starting with lunch at a new co-operative cafe opposite the town hall. Next was a walkabout around the excellent new market that has been rebuilt offering opportunities to new startups and existing stall holders as well as encouraging locals to shop locally.
A Preston Cooperative Network has been set up proving advice, informaton, consultancy, training, facilities, finance and access to suppliers.
Reduced rent can be provided for by the Council for cooperatives provided staff are paid a living wage and recognise trade unions.
Matthew also took us to visit a housing coop building new homes and also new build student accommodation built with the help of pension fund investment.
We also had a frank discussion with Matthew and a Preston Council regeneration officer about how difficult the CWB journey has been at times. Dealing with public procurement and partnership arrangements with anchor institutions was never going to be easy or straightforward. Getting support and close collaboration with the University of Central Lancaster, CLES (economic think tank), Mondragon Corporation (Basque federation of worker cooperatives) and the Open society was important but political buy in from Councillors and officers is key.
Matthew was very interested in what we are doing in Newham, in particular our proposed pension fund investment in social housing.
Many thanks to Matthew and Preston officers for taking the time to welcome and inform us.