With a very different approach to WMCA, the Cooperative Councils Innovation Network is a collaboration between local authorities who are committed to finding better ways of working for, and with, local people for the benefit of their local community. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Greenwich, Knowsley, Lambeth, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Newcastle (under Lyme and on Tyne, Norwich, Oldham, Plymouth, Rochdale, Salford, Sandwell, Southampton, Stevenage, Sunderland and Telford. Susan Press of the Co-operative News reports that Birmingham is the latest council to express an interest.
The first co-op council was launched in Lambeth in 2012, in response to the financial challenges from changes in central government funding
There is a need to define a new model for local government built on civic leadership, with councils working in equal partnership with local people to shape and strengthen communities. It replaces top down governance and service delivery with a new approach built on the founding traditions of the co-operative movement: collective action, co-operation, empowerment and enterprise.
Councillor Joan Griffiths writes that Edinburgh Council has become a Cooperative Capital, where public services work better together, and where communities have more influence over the services they use. The council aims were to encourage communities, partners and those using its services to become more involved in how they are planned, managed and delivered. There is a particular focus on developing more co-operatives to deliver energy, housing, social care and child care services. Within the first two years of this ‘Labour Lead Coalition’ local communities have helped to set up 14 co-ops, some of which have asked for and received Council backing. Cllr Griffiths thinks that this shows people are feeling empowered and want to have a stronger say in the services they access.
When and if the Co-operative News includes the long article by Susan Press on its website (a curious omission) readers will be able to hear from the new chair of CCIN, Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council since 2006. She ends:
“Co-op councils are leading the way. We are creating lifelong opportunities to get back in the local economy and there is groundbreaking work to ensure those opportunities remain, like ensuring a Living Wage and continuous training to make economic opportunities sustainable.
Co-op Councils are leading on local economy supported by regeneration towards a thriving local economy. There is no point in having shiny buildings without jobs and a vibrant economy.”