Ed Miliband backs Co-operative Councils

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband officially launched the Co-op Party’s Co-operative Councils initiative during a recent visit to Rochdale.

The scheme — which began before last year’s general election — is aimed at ending the ‘top-down’ approach to local government by handing more power to local people. Thirteen Labour-led administrations are already part of the Co-operative Councils Network and Mr Miliband urged others to follow.

A spokesman said Labour’s Co-operative Councils will work with communities to ensure services meet the needs of local people. In future, residents — not town hall officials — will be in the driving seat. 

In Lambeth, top-down youth services will be replaced with new services chosen by people living in neighbourhoods facing the highest levels of youth crime. Rochdale is mutualising its entire council housing stock, giving residents the chance to own their home as part of a co-operative. 

In Liverpool, the control of neighbourhood environmental spend has been devolved to a partnership of local people and stakeholders.

And Oldham Council has set up three co-operative trust schools and is introducing a Community Dividend Fund whereby partners, businesses and others make financial and staff-time contributions to the community. 

Said Mr Miliband: “These Labour councils are determined to support their local communities in the face of a Tory-led Government which is doing so much to undermine local services, using the Big Society as a cloak for the withdrawal of support. 

“Labour councils up and down the country are showing that they are taking action to help people take control of their lives and their local communities.” 

Cllr Steve Reed, leader of Lambeth, the country’s first Co-operative Council, said: “We are changing the way we run council services so that local people have a much bigger say over what happens to them and the places where they live. 

“It means more community-owned co-operative housing; more older people choosing which care services they want to use; more local control over parks and green spaces.” 

Co-op Party General Secretary Michael Stephenson said: “We have come to Rochdale, the home of the Co-operative Movement, to reclaim the founding traditions of the Labour and Co-operative movements — of collective action and co-operation, of empowerment and enterprise. Co-operative councils will help transform local services and local communities.” 

The 13 members of the Co-operative Councils Network are: Lambeth, Oldham, Rochdale, Newcastle, Telford and Wrekin, Salford, Liverpool, Sheffield, York, Stevenage, Redbridge, Sunderland and Kirklees.

• For the Network’s terms of reference, go to www.party.coop/local-government.

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