Future Co-ops Conference to discuss ‘threat to our democracy’

The upcoming Future Co-operatives Conference will discuss a government initiative described as ‘a threat to our democracy’. Better Regulation was launched in 2014 with an aim of cutting...

The upcoming Future Co-operatives Conference will discuss a government initiative described as ‘a threat to our democracy’.

Better Regulation was launched in 2014 with an aim of cutting red tape and bureaucracy for businesses. At the time, business secretary Sajid Javid said: “If you leave your sandwich on the bus, the bus company no longer needs to hold on to it for 48 hours before putting it in the bin” and “come Christmas, you can buy a box of crackers without having achieved the age of consent.”

However, despite this apparently innocuous objective, a new publication from the New Economics Foundation has suggested the initiative has serious repercussions on workers’ rights and other social protections.

The report found various effects of the policy included a watering down of workers’ rights to protection from unfair dismissal. Additionally, speed limits for heavy goods vehicles were increased from 40mph to 50mph – saving businesses millions of pounds, but increasing the estimated number of road deaths.

Christine Berry authored the Threat to Democracy report, and will be a panellist at the Future Co-operatives Conference. She believes the initiative has created “a large and unaccountable bureaucracy” which makes it “more difficult for government departments to pass laws which impose costs on businesses.”

The Future Co-operatives event aims to grow and connect co-operatives
The Future Co-operatives event aims to grow and connect co-operatives

The Better Regulation initiative includes a ‘one in, two out’ rule. This stops government departments from implementing new laws that cost businesses £1, unless they also repeal £2 from elsewhere, regardless of the social or environmental benefits of the business.

Conference organiser Jim Pettipher said: “Better Regulation seems to have completely passed UK co-ops by, and so the Future Co-operatives conference will take up the challenge.

“We believe that the Better Regulation initiative is a threat to democracy and worse. We believe it directly threatens co-operative values and principles.

“And we believe that co-operatives might also offer a better solution – one that protects our society and our environment.”

The panel of experts at the conference also includes Dr Tom Appleby from the University of the West of England; food and farming expert and former Co-operatives UK chairman David Button; director of Low Impact Fishers of Europe Dave Cuthbert; and president of Midcounties Co-operative Ruth FitzJohn.

The Future Co-operatives 2016 Conference will be held in Cheltenham on 29 and 30 January. You can find more information, including how to book a place, here.

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