Co-operative Councils’ update

A report about co-operative councils on this website recorded that the first one was launched in Lambeth in 2012, in response to the financial challenges from changes in central government funding. 

The 22 local co-operative authorities are committed to finding better ways of working for, and with, local people for the benefit of their local community, reshaping public services and creating local democratic economies. They formed The Cooperative Councils Innovation Network whose members include Preston, 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.

Members agree to adopt co-operative values and principles including social partnership, democratic engagement, co-production, enterprise, social economy and maximising social value. The aim is to enable citizens to be equal partners in designing and commissioning services and determining the use of resources.

In 2014 on this site we read Marie-Claire Kidd’s report that Milton Keynes Council (above) had become the first local authority to declare itself co-operative. Deputy leader Cllr Hannah O’Neill (Labour and Co-op Party) said the move had been spearheaded by council leader Peter Marland (Labour and Co-op Party), but embraced by all parties.

In October 2018 Miles Hadfield reported that Bristol City had joined CCIN. Cllr Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council and Chair of CCIN, welcomed Bristol City Council to the network as its 23rd member:

“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.”

Mayor Marvin Rees announced the move in a keynote speech at the Co-op Party conference. Championing co-operative values, he said it is the species that co-operates and learns to work together which survives and thrives.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees (third from left) at the Co-op Party conference with Cllr Chris Penberthy, from CCIN member Plymouth City Council, CCIN head of communications Nicola Huckerby and Cllr Tom Brook from Bristol City Council.

As efforts by local authorities to bring positive outcomes in their communities are being threatened by central government cuts, he added, it is important to increase the power of cities to speak together as a voice shaping national policy.

He paid tribute to Bristol’s thriving co-op sector, which ranges from energy to newspapers, and said he was committed to a “diversity of economy” in the city which would ensure no one was left behind, despite continued austerity. He said council-owned energy, waste and housing companies would ensure money stayed in the city “to invest in social outcomes”. Bristol was beating the targets it had set on affordable housebuilding, he added, and the authority was committed to the Living Wage and to closing the gender pay gap.

Sharon Taylor’s latest news is that CCIN is a partner with the Public Service Transformation Academy in hosting their 2019 Public service: state of transformation conference. This year’s theme is Helping each other out of the crisis and will be held on Thursday 23rd May at the Mary Ward House in London:

“Join over 200 thought leaders and practitioners working on public service transformation to help each other understand what works and doesn’t work in achieving better outcomes for citizens from public service design to delivery”.






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