Since February the Greater Manchester Commission has been looking at a number of opportunities to build on our proud co-operative history in areas such as transport, housing and digital. Starting from our belief that because co-operatives share the power and profits among workers, users or contributors, there is the opportunity to reconnect our residents to a fairer share in the economy. The latest evidence session took us to the crux of the issue; how do we in Greater Manchester create an environment where the co-operative model of business is supported to start and then to grow?
There are two sides to this. First is the pioneering community wealth building work that we have seen in Preston and other towns and cities across the country. In the Shadow Cabinet we have been looking at how we can make public sector procurement work for all our communities and use it to shape the business and innovation we want. In Manchester that has led to 71% of procurement going to local companies and Preston have recently committed to developing 10 worker co-operatives, rooted in their community, putting people before profits, and sharing wealth and power within companies.
Second, there is the need for the right environment to start and grow co-operatives, and as a starting point we took the New Economics Foundation publication, Co-operatives Unleashed, and looked at how that could inform our thinking on a city region basis. With more than half of UK company equity owned abroad and only just over 12% by individuals, the Labour Party’s ambition to double the size of the co-operative economy has an obvious benefit to reconnect people to the economy.
The commission heard from one of Greater Manchester’s 10 advisors working at the frontline with the next generation of people starting co-operatives. It was clear that we need to create the right framework by providing advice and access to legal and financial support, which has the right co-operative expertise. Some of that expertise could come from those that already walk-the-walk, existing co-operatives, and we should look at how we facilitate the principle of co-operatives working together.
Ideally, changes are needed to national legislation, but there was also consideration about whether Greater Manchester could provide a ready-made framework for pop-up co-operatives, so start-ups could easily access this business model more quickly and easily in the meantime.
But these were just our ideas, you can contribute your ideas on how we support co-operatives in Greater Manchester up until 1st September online at : https://www.gmconsult.org/strategy-team/coop-commission/