England & Wales Economy and regeneration, Finance

The South Tyneside Pledge: the power of many


A man and a woman shaking hands in an office space. Unsplash+ In collaboration with Getty Images

Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, shares the details of South Tyneside’s Pledge, a new community wealth building project which, at just 18 months old, has already boosted the borough’s economy by £3m. So, how have they done it? 

In a little over a year and a half, we’ve developed a community wealth building project in South Tyneside, which is adding at least £3m a year to the borough’s economy.

Coming out of Covid-19, we were keen to rebuild those networks that had been affected by the pandemic. We made a firm commitment to nurture inclusive economic growth in our Economic Recovery Plan. The Pledge’s aims were all about harnessing the power of local anchor institutions and the private and voluntary sector to help reduce some of those barriers to growth.

More than 200 organisations have now signed up to the Pledge.

South Tyneside is an amazing place with a unique sense of community – and that stretches to our business community too.

  • We are at the forefront of the green industrial revolution.
  • The Port of Tyne is home to the operations base for the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Dogger Bank.
  • An electric vehicle gigafactory is being built on a key site covering both South Tyneside and Sunderland.
  • We also have a superb hospitality industry that hosts the finish to the Great North Run.
  • Last year, we were named the Sunday Times’ Beach of the Year.

Yet, we also have significant challenges. These include:

  • Comparatively high levels of unemployment.
  • Economic inactivity.
  • Pockets of deprivation.
  • Lower levels of key skills and working households.

We wanted to do something to retain economic value within the borough by boosting local spending, focusing on local jobs and opportunities, boosting careers and aspirations, encouraging volunteering, and asking businesses to think about employee health.

After exploring the idea of a charter like the Anchor Charter in Ayrshire and the Wigan Deal, we landed on the idea of a light-touch Pledge that would ask public, private and third-sector partners to help South Tyneside thrive via a commitment to spend, recruit, and support our local area, residents, and businesses.

Launched in January 2022, the South Tyneside Pledge sets out nine commitments around spending, recruitment, and support. There are no targets, no compulsion, but rather a consensus for organisations to test their own social responsibility commitments and, most importantly, do what they can to support the borough.

The nine commitments are split into three areas.

The first area around spending focuses on increasing local procurement, encouraging organisations to work with SMEs and ask their employees to shop, eat and spend their money locally.

The second area around recruitment asks Pledgees to ensure jobs are advertised locally, to offer their time to work with schools and young people and to sign up for initiatives to help promote healthy lifestyles.

Finally, the third area around support details how Pledgees should encourage their employees to volunteer locally, take action on climate change and utilise the fantastic green spaces and cultural offers in South Tyneside.

Without the support of our business community, the Pledge wouldn’t have been the immediate success it has been to date. As individual organisations, we can only do so much, but collectively, with a common set of objectives, we can make a real difference.

Pledgees range from large organisations such as the Council, NHS Foundation Trust, Nexus, Tyne & Wear Fire & Rescue, Tyne Coast College, Port of Tyne, and Hitachi and Equinor through to key local firms and voluntary organisations like Harlow Printing, Ford Aerospace, Dicksons, Shower Pass UK, Wealth of Advice, Torgersens, Coote O’Grady, Urban River, HTG, HLA Services, and Hebburn and South Shields Football Clubs.

By signing the Pledge, organisations are saying that they will do all they can to bring about positive change to help us meet our 20-year vision and the five ambitions within it to connect people to jobs, boost health and wellbeing, create strong communities, ensure people are financially secure and target support to make things fairer.

I know that other areas can learn from our successes and work hand in hand with their local organisations to bring about positive change, and we want to keep evolving the Pledge for the benefit of our communities.

A recent survey of pledgees in partnership with Northumbria University found the following impacts so far – alongside adding £3m to the South Tyneside economy:

  • 60% using more local suppliers
  • 40% have won more local contracts
  • 57% have taken on local people
  • 61% have put in place climate change measures
  • 55% have volunteered locally
  • 45% have provided work experience
  • 40% have given school talks/ career advice

If you talk to South Tyneside organisations who have already signed up, they’ll use the same words to talk about the Pledge – collaboration, networking, easier, cheaper, faster to do business and most of all that it is a no-brainer. Check out more details about the South Tyneside Pledge here.

Check out more resources from LGIU on community wealth building


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