With Greater Manchester adopting a new Local Industrial Strategy on 13 June, regional mayor Andy Burnham is asking co-ops to bring their ideas forward to help build a new economy.
Mr Burnham was a keynote speaker at Co-op Congress in Manchester, which brought together co-operators from across the country to discuss how to take the movement forward. He said the industrial strategy is a big opportunity for the co-op movement.
The strategy pledges to create the optimum conditions for social enterprises and co-operatives to thrive. It also commits to revitalise town centres and high streets by supporting creative and digital entrepreneurs to start or scale a business, social or co-operative enterprise.
Already, Greater Manchester an embedded social value procurement policy, which is being updated to reflect the Local Industrial Strategy. The city region is also working on good employment and good landlord charters, which Mr Burnham argues could create a more beneficial environment for the co-op sector – which is still waiting for a more favourable national legislative framework.
Manchester has set itself the target of becoming carbon neutral by 2038, and Mr Burnham wants co-ops in the green energy sector to help retrofit existing properties to help it succeed.
Last year, the Labour/Co-op mayor launched the Greater Manchester Co-operative Commission, in partnership with the Co-operative Party. The Commission brings together the region’s co-operative sector and a wider group of stakeholders to consider how Greater Manchester can support existing co-ops, create conditions that enable them to grow, and identify opportunities for the expansion of co-operative enterprise into new economic sectors.
Members include the Co-op Group’s policy and campaigns director Paul Gerrard, who told Congress there is a real opportunity for anchor institutions to incentivise co-op development through public service procurement.
He pointed out that while co-ops are already making a difference, it is happening at small scale, and he called on elegates to take part in the commission’s call for evidence and share case studies of successful co-operative initiatives – as well as those that did not work.
Emma Hoddinott, the Co-op Party’s local government officer, who is also a member of the commission, said around 71% of council procurement in Manchester now goes to local companies, which helped to generate 1,000 jobs. The council’s approach to procurement also resulted in 70% of its contractors paying more than the minimum living wage.
“It’s a call to action for all of us to come up with ideas,” she said. “We want to hear examples from all over the country.”
Mark Simmonds, a co-operative business advisor who is giving evidence to the commission, said co-operative development in Greater Manchester is being delivered by a handful of experts who often have to work pro bono. Some of the work is funded through the Hive, a co-operative business advice scheme run by Co-operatives UK, and the Power to Change programme.