The upcoming review of Wicklow's local economic and community plan will consider the concept of community wealth building.
It follows a discussion during the January meeting of Wicklow County Council about a notice of motion calling for the council to adopt community wealth building. The concept focuses on the creation of an economy that benefits the local area.
The motion, put forward by Cllr Mags Crean (Ind), read as follows: “that Wicklow County Council establish an internal working group committed to advancing community wealth building beginning with an increased priority on the inclusion of green and social clauses in procurement criteria for goods and services”.
Cllr Crean had also submitted a separate motion on community wealth building, which was referenced several times during the debate.
This motion states: “that Wicklow County Council develop best international practice in community wealth building, with a focus on sustainable procurement practices. It will do this by exploring community wealth building in places such as Preston and North Ayrshire, and the role our large anchor institutions play as purchasers within the county and how that advances local business and enterprise growth and employment whilst also reducing Wicklow County Council’s carbon footprint”.
In a detailed response to the motion, Wicklow County Council said it is not considered “necessary or advisable” for a separate internal working group to be set up. National guidelines have been issued about sustainable procurement criteria, which must be used in all public procurement by 2023. Further guidelines and training are expected to be rolled out to local authorities in the coming months.
The council’s corporate procurement plan outlines goals in relation to sustainable procurement. However, the council is “awaiting the sector wide guidance and agreed measurement methodology” before specific statistics can be reported.
The council confirmed that their procurement officer, climate action officer and environmental awareness officer had recently completed sustainable procurement training.
Cllr Crean said her motion sought to link sustainable procurement to the wider role that the council could play in generating wealth locally. She asked elected members to support the motion and look at the model of community wealth building and how it could be linked to sustainable procurement by the local authority. Noting that councils in the UK have adopted the model, she suggested it could be referred to the economic development SPC to consider.
“It is timely coming out of this pandemic, we've all been through to look at how do we generate more wealth locally and link what is going to start happening in terms of green and social clause approaches to procurement,” she said.
Wicklow County Council Interim Chief Executive Brian Gleeson said guidelines had been issued by the Government and it is important to follow the framework already place. A huge amount of work had been done on sustainable procurement and a consistent approach would be expected across local authorities to allow for progress to be measured.
Mr Gleeson suggested an update on the rollout of training and national guidelines would be provided to the economic development and climate SPCs as appropriate.
Cllr Crean acknowledged that a lot of work had been done on the issue. She re-iterated her request for councillors to offer their views about linking sustainable procurement at county level to the idea of community wealth building.
Cllr Peir Leonard (Ind) said many big projects are starting in the Arklow area and noted materials are being imported to complete the works with minimum local input. She compared this to the construction of the 19 Arches Bridge and use of local rock for flagstones quayside.
Cllr Mary Kavanagh (Ind) suggested the local authority could be seen as a “trailblazer" by adopting the concept, which had benefits for communities. Other councillors also spoke in favour of Cllr Crean's motion and backed the concept of community wealth building. Overall, there was support for the motion from elected members.
Lorraine Gallagher, director of Wicklow County Council's corporate services, suggested the review of the local economic and community plan could provide an opportunity to consider the concept of the community wealth building. The advisory group for this process could look at this concept as part of the review.
Cllr Crean asked that a strategic approach is taken to incorporating the concept of community wealth building into the council’s procurement processes.
Ms Gallagher assured Cllr Crean that the advisory group is the most strategic place for the idea to be considered.
Mr Gleeson agreed that the advisory group would provide the best framework to consider the idea of community wealth building and avoid unnecessary duplication of work.