The Co-operative Enterprise Hub National Conference at Manchester’s Midland Hotel began with a celebration.
In his opening address, Michael Fairclough, The Co-operative’s head of community and co-operative investment, revealed that the hub had supported 1,000 grassroots mutual organisations since it launched three years ago.
The enterprise hub conference brings together over one hundred co-operative development specialists from across the UK; the people who deliver the service locally.
Since 2009, Mr Fairclough said, the team has delivered almost 3,500 days of free specialist support, and provided communities with the tools, skills, knowledge and confidence they need to drive regeneration.
He told delegates the country is witnessing a resurgence in enterprises set up, run and controlled for the benefit of the community. ‘The launch of the hub coincided with the financial crisis, and the financial crisis showed us that ethics in business do matter,’ he said.
‘People now have to cope with all sorts of cuts. There’s no white horse any more to come and save us. What comes from that is community led regeneration.’
The latest figures show a near 10 per cent increase in co-operative enterprises, rising from 5,450 in 2010 to 5,933 in 2011. Combined UK membership is up by 5.5 per cent to 13.5 million people, and combined turnover now exceeds £35 billion.
To maintain this momentum, The Co-operative has pledged a further £5m over the next three years for the Co-operative Enterprise Hub. The hub’s extended offer includes dedicated support for community-owned renewables and a unique scheme to underwrite community share issues.
Mr Fairclough said: ‘Communities across the country, driven by needs other than to maximise profit, are turning to co-operatively-owned solutions.
‘These enterprises are operated by a general public increasingly concerned for accountability, transparency and sustainability, and collectively they’re making a significant contribution to rebalancing the UK economy.’