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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

The Road to a Co-Operative Council Starts Here

Friday, 02 August 2019


In my blog last week I briefly mentioned that, as part of our strategic plans for Tameside over the next few years, we will be seeking to gain recognition as a Co-Operative Council. Since I think it’s going to be such an important part of our future, and since I do appreciate that some people may be unaware of the Co-Operative Councils concept, this week I want to go into what this means and what we intend on doing in more detail.

Co-Operative Councils are so called because of their commitment to the values and principles of the wider Co-Operative Alliance. From a food shop set up by weavers and workers in Rochdale in 1844, the Alliance has grown into a global organisation by 313 co-operative federations in 109 countries. Their values and principle include, but are not limited to; championing fairness and equality, making decisions in a transparent way, taking responsibility for our actions and encouraging others to do so as well, working together and supporting each other in achieving a common goal, holding ourselves accountable to our stakeholders, recognising and welcoming different views, and believing in and acting within the principles of democracy and public engagement.

Put simply, it is about everybody working together, and everybody receiving the benefits. As the democratically-elected leaders in their local area, local authorities are in a unique position to drive and support this improvement and change. At a time where councils up and down the country are struggling with almost a decade of austerity, a co-operative approach has the potential to transform the way public services are delivered, allowing us to better support our local communities and put our residents in the driving seat. This approach is not about turning all our services into co-operatives, nor is it about replacing professionals with volunteers. It’s about building upon the conversations we already have with our residents to make public services things that are done with them, not to them.

A number of local authorities in England are already Co-Operative Councils, or are on their way to receiving accreditation. This includes Lambeth Council in London, the first Co-Operative Council in the country, and Oldham, Rochdale and Salford Councils in Greater Manchester. All these councils will no doubt have experience and learning they can contribute to help us develop a Co-Operative model that works for Tameside.

We can point to a number of areas in Tameside where a commitment to Co-Operative values and principles has already been shown. The Tameside Digital Infrastructure Co-Operative offers its members wholesale access to our publically-owned dark fibre infrastructure. This allows them to build and operate cutting-edge broadband and digital connectivity services while ensuring that members keep ownership of their own assets and have an equal say in its running. Our current partners include the Hospital, College and Jigsaw Homes, and we’re looking very closely at the possibility of extending the model out to organisations from the private sector.

There are also a number of community centres in Tameside, providing volunteer-led, thriving and fully inclusive spaces for our residents and communities. The Grafton Centre in Hyde runs a wide range of health and wellbeing, social and learning activities for 480 local residents of all ages. The Together Centre at Loxley House offers a community space for residents who may otherwise be vulnerable to loneliness and isolation, working in partnership with other local organisations to put on activities such as The Shed, art groups and Sing Together.

Over the next few months we will be seeking the views of our residents and partners on what becoming a Co-Operative Council means for them. This will be done through meetings of our regular community groups such as our Neighbourhood Forums and the Partnership Engagement Network Conference and publicity work across the borough’s public spaces. An online consultation has also been launched, which you can access and reply to here. Our objective is to have a fully developed and fully supported case for accreditation as a Co-Operative Council by the end of the year. Let’s come together and set the course for Tameside’s future.

Posted by: Executive Leader

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