Save Birmingham founders launch manifesto for the West Midlands

The manifesto includes a call on the candidates for metro mayor to promote community power

Co-operatives West Midlands has launched its manifesto for the West Midlands, putting forward a set of principles and policy proposals to protect community places and promote community power.

The non-partisan organisation has written to allWest Midlands mayor and police and crime commissioner candidates, inviting them to support the proposals ahead of the key elections on 2 May, where more than 2 million people will be able to vote. 

Policy proposals include a community development corporation as an alternative to councils selling off community assets in the first place. This can only be delivered at the strategic and regional level of the mayor.

The manifesto also advocates exploring mutual operators for local rail and bus, putting passengers in the driving seat for deciding fares, routes and services. 

Another ask is the creation of the first-ever co-operative development academy in the country, which would train a new generation of business advisors and apprentices to support the growth of the co-operative economy in the West Midlands.

Co-operatives West Midlands is the group that launched the Save Birmingham campaign in September 2023 as Birmingham City Council effectively declared bankruptcy. After successfully averting a fire sale of community assets and persuading the council to instead explore community-based options, the group is now advocating for community solutions at the mayoral level.

“Co-operatives are democratic businesses that create economic and social value for their members and local communities by acting ethically and responsibly,” says the manifesto, “But they face a number of challenges – including an uneven playing field with other forms of business, a lack of awareness and limited access to key institutions and finance. 

“With the right support and an enabling environment, they can meet community needs, provide inclusive employment opportunities, boost the region’s economy, empower residents, improve community cohesion and ultimately unlock substantial economic and social value for communities.”

The successful mayoral candidate will chair and lead the West Midlands Combined Authority, which covers the seven local authorities of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton – with representatives from nearby authorities and partner organisations. Candidates include Andy Street (incumbent, Conservative), Richard Parker (Labour), Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Greens), Sunny Virk (Lib Dems), Elaine Williams (Reform UK) and Akhmed Yakoob (independent)

The policy asks in full:

  • Establish a Co-operative Development Network and Co-operative Growth Fund to champion and accelerate the growth of co-operatives, including helping to create a new generation of cooperative business advisors and apprentices.
  • Create a West Midlands Community Development Corporation to protect community assets and enable social investment that supports community ownership.
  • Explore mutual solutions for transport services through mutual operators for local buses and trains, and give passengers and workers a say on fares, routes and services.
  • Promote community-led housing and land ownership to deliver genuinely affordable homes that are democratically managed by residents and local communities.
  • Enable a level playing field when procuring goods and services through a fair process that includes consideration of social value.
  • Protect retail workers and promote community safety through increased partnership working, community involvement and targeted enforcement
  • Launch an independent Cooperative Commission to help to identify barriers and solutions to growing the cooperative economy.