Sandwell: A new hospital at the heart of local economic change

new-hospital-outdoorsThe role of anchor institutions in regeneration

As public investment dwindles, so-called ‘anchor’ institutions are playing ever larger roles in the wellbeing of their local economies. While private organisations can walk away when market forces dictate, anchor institutions such as hospitals, colleges, councils and housing organisations are wedded to the places in which they are based. Ensuring that such institutions play a role in the fortunes of their neighbourhoods is becoming a key regeneration strategy.

Preston is leading the way in the UK, with the local council running a Community Wealth Building programme aimed at using procurement practice and behaviour to prevent money from leaking from the local economy.

Working with CLES it has developed a baseline understanding of the procurement spend of its anchor institutions – including the local college, council and housing association. Its initial findings showed that £458m is being leaked out of the Lancashire area. Preston and Lancashire have since increased their level of local procurement spend and identified around £3m that is ‘influenceable’.

The model village at Bournville, which Parke wants to mimic with the Midlands Metropolitan hospital, was set up by the Cadbury brothers in 1893 to provide housing and local facilities to staff at its local factory and other local residents. With a mix of private and rented housing and a trust that re-invests all profits back into the community, it proves that stable investment into an area from a corporate sponsor can reap dividends. Bournville is today one of the most desirable places to live in the country.

The embedding of the hospital within its local economy – and the collaboration it

demonstrates between local actors – offers a test case for the future anchoring of places.

Cadbury’s paternalistic approach encouraged residents to attend local adult education classes and forbade pubs. This philanthropic model was combined with and then replaced by municipalism, demonstrated most clearly by Chamberlain’s Birmingham.

But today’s new local anchor institutions are part of a more democratic vision of a local economy, in which a plurality of actors and engaged citizens play roles in the development of local areas.

A recent report on the role of anchor institutions in local economic development, describes the progressive role of a range of local anchors that can ‘lock in or stimulate local economic benefit and the good local economy’.

‘It is about local government being the active enabler, encouraging and inspiring self-determination from a range of sectors and innovative collaboration and crossover between social, public and commercial networks’.

The embedding of the Midlands Metropolitan hospital within its local economy – and the collaboration it demonstrates between local actors – offers a test case for the future anchoring of places.

Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine
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