Today will see a new generation of co-operative councils

May 5, 2011 5:51 am

co-op logo redBy Martin Tiedemann

Last week the Co-operative Party launched its local government manifesto, a comprehensive set of policy ideas for Labour & Co-operative councillors to take forward to put co-op principles at the heart of local services for local communities.

Councils have long been working hand in hand with local residents and businesses to provide housing, maintain roads, deliver education and create healthy and vibrant communities. For decades, Labour councils have been pioneers of co-operative ideas, developing new structures that empower service users and the workforce, nurturing local voluntary groups and founding mutual ventures like credit unions, set up to provide affordable savings and loans and prevent loan sharks taking hold.

The challenge for councils now is a great one. Under attack from Eric Pickles and the coalition government, councillors are facing large reductions in grant income just at the time when demand for council services is increasing, as communities face growing unemployment and pressure on their finances. At the same time, our expectations of public services are changing. People want to have greater influence over the services they use and a greater say in what their council plans for the future.

In social care, direct payments of benefits is allowing those receiving care to direct their own care and control how money is spent on their behalf, employing carers directly or providing relief in other ways not usually part of the suite of local council services. But employment law and the coordination of often poorly paid care workers across wide areas can make this difficult for many people to meet these new demands. In Croydon, South London, where I served as a Labour & Co-op councillor myself, care users and their families have come together with the support of the council and the Department of Health under Labour to form Caring Support, a new co-op. These have brought together service users, informal carers and personal care assistants to ensure that both users and employees can benefit from a more formalised system of care and economies of scale. This means that recipients are able to remain in control of the day to day provision of how their care is provided, while personal care assistants of the co-operative are able to ensure that they receive appropriate employment conditions.

And, almost 20 years ago, Greenwich’s Labour council decided to form a co-op to run its leisure assets rather than oversee their continued decline and shut swimming pools. Now Greenwich Leisure, owned by its employees and overseen by a board including councillors and workforce and community representatives, is thriving, running the leisure services for many other local authorities and the National Sports Centre.

So, from leisure to housing, through economic development and support for international co-operation as Fairtrade boroughs, the co-operative ideas in our manifesto give a practical set of tested policies that local councils can implement to address the needs of their areas. It draws on the excellent work of the credit union movement, of housing co-ops and of many Labour councils around the country who have already done so much to further this agenda. Today, we hope that Labour will, with the support of its sister party the Co-operative Party, gain ground across the country in local government, retaking control of a whole set of councils. There are hundreds of candidates standing as Labour & Co-operative and hundreds more Co-operative Party members hoping to become Labour councillors. Whether it’s prospective council leaders like Councillor Jim McMahon in Oldham and Councillor Tudor Evans in Plymouth, or hopeful first-time councillors like Kev Peel in Manchester and Lis Telcs in Brighton & Hove, our strong team of Labour & Co-operative campaigners are ready to put co-operative ideas at the heart of their work to improve services and deal with the challenges of their community. This manifesto gives them the toolkit to make that happen.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • News Blair: We should not chase after UKIP on immigration

    Blair: We should not chase after UKIP on immigration

    Tony Blair has warned the Labour Party not to give in to UKIP’s arguments on immigration, saying that the party has a “nasty core of prejudice”. In an interview with Progress, Blair says Labour should be take the line that UKIP are wrong: “Let’s be clear: We don’t think that UKIP’s right, not on immigration and not on Europe – so the first thing you’ve got to be really careful of doing is … saying things that suggest that they’re kind […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Murphy makes unity candidate pitch as Unite prepare to endorse Findlay

    Murphy makes unity candidate pitch as Unite prepare to endorse Findlay

    There are two interviews with Scottish Labour leader candidates in this morning’s papers. Jim Murphy launches his campaign by talking to the Daily Record (the same paper Johann Lamont did her resignation interview with last week), while Neil Findlay has a short conversation with the Morning Star. Murphy builds on the statement he made last night (“I’m applying for the job of First Minister”) by claiming he wants “to bring the country back together after the referendum.” He said: “I […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Brand or bland? Are these really my choices?

    Brand or bland? Are these really my choices?

    Russell Brand has a book out and a great publicist. His diagnosis of our current malaise is pretty spot on. His solutions however are woolly headed at best and inconsistent at worst. But Russell Brand is being taken seriously. He’s never off Newsnight nor out of the pages of the Guardian. People are flocking to follow him in their thousands. He is Che Guevara for the scripted reality generation. The established left simply don’t know what to make of this. […]

    Read more →
  • Comment If politicians can’t enact the policies people actually want, the system is broken

    If politicians can’t enact the policies people actually want, the system is broken

    This week, Class released a new poll on the theme of fairness and inequality, which will nicely coincide with the debates at our conference this Saturday. Speaking of which, you should totally book a ticket for that as we’re down to the last few. Anyway, I find our polling particularly interesting (I mean, you’d hope I would) because its aim is to gauge public opinion on long-term issues, rather than responding to a given news story. Class polls provide a […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win”: Jim Murphy joins Scottish Labour leadership race

    We now have three candidates for Scottish Labour leader, as Jim Murphy’s long-awaited candidacy has been confirmed. The Shadow International Development Secretary and former Scotland Secretary released a statement this evening, saying that his intention is to be Scottish Labour leader and First Minister: “I’m standing for First Minister of Scotland and I intend to win. I want to bring Scotland back together after the referendum. There is so much to be proud of in Scotland but so much we […]

    Read more →