How can we support and empower our citizens to identify economic opportunities from local natural resources?

How do we invest in local green infrastructure and develop markets for these ‘natural capital’ goods?

How do we encourage people to support the local economy in their spending choices?


2.1 Holistic finance and accounting models


Problem


Around 14 million people can’t afford one or more essential household goods (PSE UK, 2013). In Britain, 1.5 million people – three times the population of Edinburgh – are excluded from financial services (e.g. unable to get credit or don’t have a bank account).

There are six million ‘just-about-managing’ households, who struggle to live modestly with their earnings. The poorest third of society not only lacks disposable income but financial education in how to manage loans. Better access to micro-credit for this sector would encourage entrepreneurial ventures and help sustainable living issues.


Why it matters


Greater microfinance can save the government, with a study finding that for every £1 invested, around £3 is saved, and up to £7 can be saved in benefits (Kamall). Ethnic minority community groups are discluded from charitable giving, with a study finding only 1% of the 15,000 that exist in Britain are registered with charities and receive just 3% of charitable giving. Barriers to funding include lack of literacy, numeracy and IT skills, time constraints and understanding difficult financial jargon and criteria (Edge Fund).


References


2.2 Accounting for social, economic and environmental investment


Problem


We need to better capture the impacts of social and environmental projects to justify existing services and encourage further investment. Less than 20% of councils formally assess the community’s appetite for more involvement in local matters, while over 60% assume that communities’ capability for managing services or assets is low, and that citizens are ‘unmotivated’ to take up responsibilities (Carr et al, 2011).


Why it matters


International examples in New Zealand and Australia have shown that better accounting of the intrinsic values of parks and green spaces help serve stronger cases for funding (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2009). Spending on environmental protection is estimated to serve on average two million jobs – that’s 1.2 per cent of total EU employment (The EU Economy 2004 Review, 2004).


References


2.3 Sustainable housing meeting local needs


Problem


House and rental prices have outstripped affordability, pricing out essential lower-paid professions such as nurses, teachers, and carers. ‘Sustainability’ doesn’t just refer to materials and energy, but social sustainability too. Many houses are unavailable, or bought as investments but left empty. Land is stockpiled but not resourcefully used as owners wait for its ‘value’ to increase.


Land use is determined by the owners, who don’t always put quality of life as a priority, while housing developers tend to assume their buyers are car owners.


Why it matters


Between 2002 and 2015 house and rental prices rose by almost 90%, while average earnings only rose by 25% (ONS, 2016). People privately renting in the bottom 20% of the income scale pay more than 50% of their income on rent, compared with the 13% that middle-income owners typically spend on a mortgage (Fabian Society, 2016).


In 2016 there were over 200,000 homes in England, collectively worth over £40 billion, that were empty for at least six months. In London, almost 20,000 homes are left empty for over six months, with Birmingham, Bradford and Liverpool being the next worst affected cities (Inman, 2017). 45% of sites in London with planning permission to build new homes are owned by companies that do not build homes (Greater London Authority, 2012).


References


Collaborators

Innovate UK

The UK's innovation agency. Innovate UK funds and supports science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

gov.uk

NWG

Northumbrian Water aims to be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and waste water services.

nwl.co.uk