New East, New Thinking – Essays in Civic Socialism published in June 2019, is part of our emerging story of renewal and what we call the re-birth of civic socialism in Britain today. We want to make more progress in proof-testing key points of this new approach. For now, we want to tell the story of how we got here, the principles and thinking that underpin what we do, the progress made to date and what happens next.
What we certainly won’t be doing is making any claim to a monopoly of wisdom. In adversity, and maybe because of it, Councils up and down the country are doing incredible things. Preston have harnessed the power of procurement to deliver social value and keep investment local. Wigan have co-produced a new deal between the council and the community. Greater Manchester are pioneering service integration. And there is much more.
A wave of civic creativity is springing up across the country – shoots of renewal at a moment of political crisis that tell a larger story about not just about local but eventually the national picture. The timing could not be more acute.
Our country faces its biggest challenges since the Second World War. Brexit is a symptom of a nation utterly divided. It reveals much more than the unravelling of a tepid 40-year relationship with Europe – but a longer and deeper national decline which now divides generations, places and people.
How did we get here? What must we do to restore confidence in our politics and create cohesion alongside sustainable prosperity for the many? What is the good society in the twenty-first century and how do we all help create it? The answers, as we are finding out, are not to do more of the same and expect a different outcome, not to tweak old forms of governance or micro manage our way through the crisis as if the technocrats know best; and we certainly can’t cut our way to success. Instead it’s going to take a system reboot from the 20th century ways of deciding and doing things to a new 21st century way. And Barking and Dagenham (B&D) provides a unique insight into the nature of that transformation, which we feel has implications for the rest of the country.