Speaking at the Co-operative Party’s annual conference, Welsh Assembly Member Mick Antoniw said co-operative principles were implemented in a number of areas of Welsh government policy, such as education and housing. This, he added, helped achieve progress despite the impact of a £1.8bn cut in the Welsh Assembly government budget.
Mr Antoniw, who succeeded Vaughan Gething as chair of the Cross Party Group on Co-operatives and Mutuals in 2013, highlighted that the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission’s report has now been embedded in governmental policy. The report is a blueprint for co-operation, suggesting co-operative solutions for a number of areas, including education, business support and investment.
Mr Antoniw said the Welsh government had accepted the report and was looking to implement the principles in its policies. According to the Labour/Co-op AM, of particular importance is the intention to embed the co-operative model of learning within the education system. He said at least one higher-level business qualification in co-operative business models would be available, this being one of the suggestions made by the report. In addition, the Welsh baccalaureate has been enhanced to embed co-operative principles, in collaboration with the Welsh Co-operative Centre.
Mick Antoniw said the government was also pushing for co-operative principles on the implementation of the Localism Act, by encouraging co-operative ownership of listed assets when the opportunity arises.
In terms of social care and health, local authorities have by statute the duty to promote social enterprises and co-operatives in the delivery of those services, said Mr Antoniw.
He also referred to the Housing (Wales) Bill developed by Labour/Co-op AM Huw Lewis while Minister of Housing, which was launched in November last year and includes particular references to co-operative housing. The Bill calls for strengthening the ability of mutual housing co-operatives to contribute to providing additional homes by allowing them to develop affordable housing schemes. It also asks for mutual housing co-operatives to be granted assured tenancies, enabling them to use standard tenancy agreements and, by doing so, removing the difficulty with occupancy agreements between co-operatives and their members.
Another positive development has been the announcement of funding of three pioneer co-operative housing pilot schemes in Newport, Cardiff and Carmarthenshire which is expected to provide 89 co-operative homes.
He also explained how the Scottish referendum has brought the devolution debate back to Wales. The Labour/Co-op AM thinks co-operative principles are fundamental to developing Wales’ constitutional future.
“It is not about a federation of parliaments, but about the decentralisation of power, he said. “To embed co-op principles into legislation and government policy is the way forward.”
For more from the Co-operative Party annual conference, click here