Big Society is not a ‘public service cuts’ smokescreen

A failure of the traditional left and of free markets calls for the Co-operative Movement to step up and change the economy for the 21st century, according to...

Self-dubbed as a Red Tory, Mr Blond (pictured) told delegates at Congress: “We need to think big. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The government is listening and wants a new economic model. 

“We’ve had the failure of the traditional left and the failure of traditional free markets . . . a 21st century Co-operative Movement has the potential to change what an economy is in the first place.

“We can no longer be in a situation where types of private enterprise cause poverty that the state then has to clear up,” he said, suggesting that unless an alternative can be found “we don’t have an economic future”. 

And the alternative that he proposed was a multi-stakeholder model of business, and a multi-stakeholder economy in which “co-operatives are a leading player”.

He spoke of the much discussed Big Society and said it wasn’t about creating a “DIY state” or a “smokescreen for Tory cuts” and he said the Big Society rejected the idea that the last 13 years had been a golden age for the third sector. “Increased state funding coupled with increased audit has created a sector that is a state surrogate,” he said.

Speaking of the current government he observed that “a lack of innovation accompanied budget cuts created an unparalleled opportunity for an incredibly confident and recovered mutual sector”.

Mr Blond argued there were opportunities to extend mutualism into the public sector. “You can get better for less in the mutual sector,” he said. 

He added: “Co-operatives shouldn’t be associated with anything that is ugly. They should seek to form new, broader alliances within and beyond the Movement. It’s important that common cause is made with successful non-co-operative enterprises. If you can link in with others it can create a whole new model that out competes everything you’re against.”

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