First meeting of Andy Burnham’s commission for a co-operative Manchester

Commissioners want to ‘spread opportunities brought by growth to people across the region’

The Greater Manchester Co-operative Commission, commissioned by regional mayor Andy Burnham to help create “the most co-operative place in the UK”, held its first meeting this week.

The commission, set up in partnership with the Co-operative Party, will work with the region’s co-ops and other experts to look at ways to improve education, reduce inequality, create high-quality jobs and provide key services.

The meeting included representatives from across the movement, including Simon Parkinson from the Co-operative College, Cliff Mills from Anthony Collins solicitors, James Wright from Co-operatives UK and Jo Platt MP from the Co-operative Party.

Related: Vision for a people-centred economy – how do we double the co-op sector?

Ms Platt, whose Leigh constituency is within the devolved regional authority,  said Greater Manchester already has a thriving co-operative sector. 160,000 people in Greater Manchester are members of a co-operative, collectively providing a turnover to the local economy of over £73m.

Writing for local government news website the Municipal Journal, Ms Platt said the commission would look at issues such as the potential of community housing to ease the problems of homelessness and improve standards in the private rental sector.

And pointing to the region’s growing digital sector, she said she wanted the commission to explore ways to “spread opportunities brought by growth to people across the region.”

The event was also attended by SoundPound, the Greater Manchester Consortium of credit unions. Its representative, Hoot Credit Union chief executive David Batten, said he was proud to “offer perspective to the commission and to highlight the contribution credit unions can make to the GM economy by offering ethical and affordable financial services”.

More than 50,000 people in Greater Manchester are members of one of the SoundPound partners, currently borrowing over £14 million. Members also currently hold savings of over £24 million with SoundPound Credit Unions.

Mr Burnham will give an update on the commission’s progress at Co-operative Congress, held in Manchester in June.