Bristol City Council is the latest addition to the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN), which is using the movement’s principles to reshape public services and create local democratic economies.
Mayor Marvin Rees announced the move in a keynote speech at the Co-op Party conference, which was held in the city over the weekend.
Championing co-operative values, he said that while naturalists often talked of survival of the fittest, “it is the species that co-operates, that learns to work together, that survives and thrives”.
But efforts by local authorities to bring positive outcomes in their communities were threatened by central government cuts, he warned, adding: “We desperately need change”.
He said power in the UK was over-centralised and this could not be sustained, arguing: “At local government level we make space for a different kind of thinking and for immediacy of delivery”.
It was important to increase the power of cities to speak together “as a voice shaping national policy”, he told delegates.
And he paid tribute to Bristol’s own 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.
“So much of what goes on is in the city is not under our control,” he said, pointing to key anchor organisations such as the NHS and police. “The challenge is how do we pull together all the component parts of Bristol behind a number of shared priorities?”
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.
Related: Report from annual meeting of CCIN
Cllr Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council and Chair of CCIN, said: ”We are delighted to welcome Bristol City Council to the network as our 23rd member.
“Joining the CCIN really does offer opportunities to learn from other local authorities across the UK committed to delivering co-operative best practice and committed to finding better ways of working for, and with, local people for the benefit of their local community. We’re really looking forward to working with Mayor Rees and finding out more about their ‘One Bristol Approach’.”