Greater Manchester’s inaugural Co-operative Commission has issued a rallying call to drive the movement forward and build a stronger, fairer city-region where new co-ops and social enterprises can thrive.
Chaired by Councillor Allen Brett, leader of Rochdale Council and portfolio lead for co-operatives, communities and inclusion on the devolved Greater Manchester region, the Co-operative Commission met for the first time last month.
It is now calling for evidence to explore how the sector can help deliver the ambitions set out in the Greater Manchester Strategy.
The Commission, summoned by Labour/Co-op mayor for the region Andy Burnham, wants to work with co-ops to reduce inequality, improve education and employment and help the sector grow into other areas of the economy to make Greater Manchester the most co-operative region in the UK.
Alongside Cllr Brett, it consists of vice chair Cllr Angeliki Stogia (Manchester Council); Paul Gerrard (Co-op Group); James Wright (Co-operatives UK); Kelly Bubble (Unicorn Grocery); Jo Platt MP (Co-op Party); David Batten (Credit Unions for Greater Manchester); Simon Parkinson (Co-op College); Mike Blackburn (chair of Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership); Sean Fensom (Tameside Digital Infrastructure Co-operative); and Cliff Mills (Anthony Collins Solicitors).
More than 160,000 people in Greater Manchester are already members of a co-operative, and collectively these co-ops contribute £73m the local economy.
The co-operatives include credit unions providing financial services to communities, ten housing co-operatives, and retail, which is the largest sector and includes a number of organisations that are reporting significant increases in turnover. Co-ops are also starting to emerge in key growth areas such as digital and green technology.
Mr Burnham said: “As the home of the co-operative movement, it’s vital we harness those values and put them at the centre of everything we do, working with co-operatives and social enterprises to build a stronger, fairer Greater Manchester where nobody is left behind.
“Through the work of the commission, we have an opportunity to do things differently and explore new and innovative ways to nurture, grow and work more closely with the co-operative sector so it plays a central role in making Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old.”
Cllr Brett said: “I’m looking forward to working with co-operatives and social enterprises across Greater Manchester to ensure we are harnessing the full benefits that they can bring to our local economy to make our city-region the most co-operative in the UK.”
The project will also involve the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network, whose chair Cllr Sharon Taylor praised its “ambition to reclaim the traditions of community action, community engagement and civic empowerment which can transform communities”.
She added: “The aim is to help deliver radical and innovative programmes that are designed, led and delivered in partnership with communities and therefore maximise the economic and social dividend they bring. Our members are well placed to provide such evidence.”
The commission will sit as an independent panel, making policy recommendations in areas where co-operatives can support the delivery of the Greater Manchester Strategy – including community-led housing, digital self-employment, transport, and co-op business development.
You can share your experiences of co-operatives via the call for evidence at www.gmconsult.org