Co-operative solutions for a turbulent world

The political landscape has changed markedly over the past year.The country has a new Prime Minister and Chancellor. Gordon Brown has formed a government determined to tackle head...

The political landscape has changed markedly over the past year.
The country has a new Prime Minister and Chancellor. Gordon Brown has formed a government determined to tackle head on the challenges that lie ahead: helping the poor; tackling climate change; and providing a strong response to economic turmoil. These are the main priorities for the Labour Government.
Alastair Darling’s first Budget as Chancellor dealt well with the tight financial situation that governments around the world all face. The rise on alcohol duty will provide a disincentive for drinkers to take part in dangerous binge sessions. 
Moreover, the rise in alcohol duty will help pay for an increase in child benefit allowances next year and tax credits will increase by £50 a year. 
This coupled with the drive to get the biggest energy suppliers to do more to help those in fuel poverty will mean that thousands of the most vulnerable will be better off. Additionally, the rise in child benefit and the tax credit will help vulnerable children, advancing us ever closer to our goal of eradicating child poverty.
The success of President Sarkozy’s visit to Britain highlights Gordon Brown’s commitment to finding global solutions to the challenges that lie ahead. This can only be done with good cross-border relations, something that President Sarkozy and the Prime Minister are working towards. 
Both leaders want to discover new ways to involve the whole of Europe, and beyond, in finding solutions to the problems of climate change and global terrorism. 
There certainly seems a long and fruitful relationship in the offing, with the entente cordiale revitalised for the 21st century.
The positive achievements of the Labour Government must not blind us to the challenges that face us — particularly in the global economy. The problems experienced at Northern Rock give a clear demonstration of the potential risks in the globalised economy. 
The Co-operative Movement is in a unique position to provide solutions in a potentially turbulent economic climate. The Co-operative Bank’s ethical policies mean that it will only loan customers’ deposits to institutions they find agreeable. For more than 15 years, the Bank has led the way in ethical banking. If more financial institutions took a leaf from its book then the severity of any future financial difficulty can be diminished. The lesson we must all learn is that banks must have a better awareness of the needs of their customers as well as the needs of their shareholders.
Credit unions — of which there are three in my constituency — can also provide ethical banking products for the local community. 
The credit unions place the needs of the local community at the heart of everything they do. In an age where global banks make massive profits at the expense of local communities, the credit unions provide a refreshing emphasis on community based solutions for obtaining affordable loans.
No one can be entirely sure what the future holds, especially with regard to the economy. There may well be more turbulence on the horizon; unfortunately no one can predict with absolute certainty how this will manifest itself. 
What we as co-operators must be sure of, however, is that the Movement stands ready to provide strong leadership in times of trouble. Yes, there may be setbacks, but these must strengthen our resolve to guide local communities through difficult spells. 
Using our values and principles, I am sure the Movement can steer the most vulnerable in society out of any problems that may arise.
• Tommy McAvoy is Labour/Co-op MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West and Government Whip.
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