Co-operatives Unleashed: from the grassroots

Around the country, local councils are now preparing detailed plans for recovering from the impact of COVID-19. One of the important areas that they are considering is how to restart the local economy and minimise the effect of the recession on their local communities.

This report sets out practical ways for councils to encourage and enable the start-up and growth of businesses that adhere to Co-operative Values and Principles which enable any business to be fairer, more democratic and accountable to their members and their communities.  Councils have a key role to play in supporting co-operatives, especially when it comes to giving local communities ownership over local assets and services.

The report is designed to inspire ambition and tenacity – with the people, policy, funders, projects, business ideas and training – to put wealth directly into communities. Now is an ideal time to build on the momentum of community empowerment:

  1. Calling on government, enterprise agencies LEPs to remove information market failures by requiring business support providers to have the knowledge and partnerships to promote, inform and deliver co-operative business solutions.
  2. Calling on government to expand the enabling environment for councils working with communities and groups by addressing market failures to investment in neighbourhoods that are high in the indices of multiple deprivation. Incentivising investment in deprived neighbourhoods should be through mechanisms that apply to every deprived neighbourhood. We have suggested a State Aid exemption.
  3. Calling on Council Leaders and Senior Managers to promote co-operative business solutions internally in their council and insist that this option is understood, named in strategies, and supported with investment, partnerships and training to ensure delivery.
  4. Calling on influencers, investors and funders to create an open, dynamic conversation with Councils about opportunities for co-operative solutions in community economic development

The report makes several recommendations for local authorities to follow, including:

  1. Explore the development of a state aid exemption
  2. Championing co-operative principles as tools rather than mandate
  3. Recognise the concept of a co-operatively run business
  4. Publish a corporate commitment to support growth of the co-operative sector
  5. State a preference for companies that are initiated by the council to be co-operatives
  6. Skills for cross sector working
  7. Implement a co-operative awareness training programme
  8. Implement a council Co-operative Ambassador Programme
  9. Ensure that quality business advice is available locally from generic and specialist advisors

This report, ‘Co-operatives Unleashed: from the Grassroots’ was funded through CCIN’s Policy Lab programme.