The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN) is to welcome Oxford City Council as a member.
A non-party-political network, CCIN was set up in 2012 help local authorities explore new way of working with their communities.
Oxford City Council said it was joining CCIN because it wants to support co-operatives as part of the local economy. It added that membership of the nework will allow it to share ideas and best practice as it looks for new ways to support communities during the Covid-19 pandemic – despite having fewer resources.
It said local businesses – and co-ops in particular – have played a key role in supporting their communities throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Broken Spoke Bike Cooperative, which repairs and sells refurbished second-hand bikes, was a partner in the project Bikes for Key Workers Scheme, in collaboration with Active Oxfordshire and Cyclox. As part of the project, bikes donated by members of the public are renovated from home by volunteers before being assessed and safety-checked by mechanics and distributed distributed free of cost to key workers across the city. A total of 120 bikes have been distributed since the beginning of April.
Another local business that has responded to the crisis is community-owned hub Flo’s in the Park. The centre allowed community midwives to use its meeting rooms to help alleviate pressure from GP and hospital premises as well as reduce the need for transport. The co-op’s café has also run a take-away service and provides around 200 free cooked meals per week to at-risk groups in collaboration with partners from across Oxford. The centre’s refill shop was also expanded to respond to the local community’s demand for more plastic-free products.
Cllr Richard Howlett, Oxford City Council’s co-operatives champion, said: “We’re committed to supporting co-operatives in Oxford as we build back from this crisis. Joining CCIN will help us make sure the city council develops policies that help foster this part of our economy.
“Many businesses have given amazing support to their local community through lockdown, but as life begins to get busier we want to support more co-operatives in Oxford who will do this all the time. We want to encourage anyone who is interested in setting up a community business to find out more about how being a co-op could be the right way forward.”
Cllr Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council cabinet member for green transport and zero carbon, said: “We are excited about working within a network that is growing in size, strength, and influence because of its agenda for inclusive economic growth. Oxford has long invested in communities and protected frontline services, making use of in-sourcing rather than outsourcing to create income. We look forward to working with fellow members to build community wealth and a resilient economy based on co-operative values.
“Oxford City Council is particularly proud to stand with councils up and down the country that are proposing co-operative solutions to our climate emergency. Our Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change is both an embodiment of this council’s co-operative spirit and a driving force for further co-operation.
“At the heart of the ambitious visions of Oxford backed by assembly members were new models for bringing people together. For waste reduction, members backed refill and repair services, clothing swap shops, and clothing rental services. For transport, they supported car club electric vehicles for every ten households. For renewable energy, they voted for “co-operative run local energy generation and distribution [that] creates Oxford-based electricity suppliers that invest in community energy projects” as distinct from largely centralised energy generation.”
Cllr Sharon Taylor, chair of CCIN and leader of Stevenage Council said’: “We’re delighted to welcome Oxford City Council. The CCIN now comprises 71 councils and organisations and is probably the fastest growing network in local government.
“We have been advocating a fundamentally new relationship between councils and citizens since our formation in 2012; and our members have been blazing a trail, developing and sharing innovative co-operative policies and practices to make a real difference to the communities we serve. We look forward to Cllr Hayes and the team at Oxford City Council playing an active part.”