Greens include co-ops and mutual banks in small business charter

Regional mutual banks would be capitalised through a Co-operative Development Fund, says the party

The Green Party has launched a charter for small business ahead of Thursday’s general election. The charter includes support for the co-operative and mutual economy, including regional mutual banks capitalised by a new Co-operative Development Fund. 

The Green Charter for Small Business says its aim is to support small businesses and high streets so they can “thrive in the green economy of the future”.

The party’s communities spokesperson and parliamentary candidate in North Herefordshire, Ellie Chowns, described small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as “the lifeblood of our economy and our communities”, adding: “The best and most successful small businesses are embedded in their local economies and support their local communities.”

In its commitment to supporting SMEs, the Green Party says that any MPs elected on 4 July will push for government funding to encourage more community ownership as part of the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

The charter states: “Community ownership can be encouraged through greater access to government funding in the transition to a zero-carbon economy. We want to change markets where customers, suppliers and workers are open to exploitation through market dominance.”

Co-ops are also mentioned in the party’s plans around food and farming, as it looks at “rebalancing the power dynamic between big food manufactures and local alternatives such as local food networks, community-supported agriculture and other co-operatives”. 

Part of these plans include the implementation of a Fairer Farming Charter to give more control to smaller and family farms.

A move towards co-operation is also mentioned within the Greens’ proposed support for businesses to decarbonise. Along with £2bn per year in grant funding for local authorities to provide this support, the party says it will explore legal ways for companies to become mutuals, particularly when the businesses are changing hands.

“Our new generation of Green MPs will press in Parliament to remove any legal blocks to companies wanting to transform into mutual organisations, especially at the point of succession from one owner to another,” said Chowns.

The activities laid out in the charter would be supported by a network of regional mutual banks, which would support investment in SMEs, community-owned enterprises and co-operatives.

These banks would be backed by a Co-operative Development Fund, using some of the funds made available through the United Kingdom Infrastructure Bank along with an additional £10bn of public money, said Chowns.

Also mentioned in the charter are VAT and business rates reductions for SMEs, as well as the implementation of a Prompt Payment Code.

The Party also wants to see daily free school meals, 150,000 new social homes built per year, an increase in annual public subsidies for rail and bus travel to £10bn, and the UK rejoining the single market, as a first step towards full EU membership.

Chowns said: “We know the current approach to protecting our high streets and supporting local businesses is failing. Across the country, too many people are totally out of reach of vital resources like a local bank or pharmacy. 

“We want to change the existing market structures that leave customers, suppliers and workers open to exploitation through market dominance. Markets must work to support a fair transition to a zero-carbon economy.”