Tomorrow (25 November) the Chancellor will publish UK government’s spending plans for 2021-22. The stakes could not be higher. Job losses are at their highest since 2009, millions face poverty and individual and corporate debt is ballooning.
We need bold action
But awful as things are, they could be worse. Extending the furlough scheme until the end of March 2021 has bought us time. Time we must use to plan ahead and lay the foundations for something better. Let’s not waste it!
Politicians across the UK will need to take further bold action, to help businesses safeguard jobs and help people with damaged or lost livelihoods to build better ones. Chronic frailties in the finances of businesses and households need addressing. And we have to do all this in a way that kick-starts our rapid transition to an environmentally sustainable and socially just economy.
Co-ops can be pivotal
The evidence is mounting that co-ops can be pivotal in this. The Co-op will come out of this pandemic paying front-line colleagues the Real Living Wage, while doubling the amount it gives to local communities.
Co‑ops raising money through community shares are found to be even more resilient and are democratising local economies. Housing co-ops offer not just lower costs but also unrivalled security and control in private rentals. I could go on.
Only national governments can bring forward the complete policy packages - combining legal processes and specialized finance and support - which elsewhere in the world help people use co-ops to protect livelihoods under threat. It’s also up to national government to ensure co-operative entrepreneurship is an accessible option for all who could benefit. And they can change their enterprise finance schemes to serve the distinct and too often unmet needs of co-ops.
Scottish and Welsh Governments already support employee buyouts and some aspects of co-op development. Proportionally, Scotland leads the UK in co‑op formation and buyouts, demonstrating that even modest public investment in co-op development makes a significant impact. This is all great on its own terms. But given how pivotal co‑ops could be, the case for doing more is compelling.
It’s local government, including city-regions and councils, who are best-placed to lead on co‑op development, in partnership with communities and the co‑op sector. With our support, Sheffield City Region included excellent proposals to support co‑ops in its Covid Recovery Plan. Liverpool and Greater Manchester have similar ambitions. Councils from North Ayrshire to Plymouth are proactively nurturing a new economy. Community wealth building is taking root and in some places, starting to flower.
Hopefully, post-Brexit local development funds, the outlines of which the Chancellor will finally confirm tomorrow, will provide some new resources that local leaders and communities can use to make all this happen.
Co‑operatives UK is gearing up to make some big announcements on co‑op development and city-regional partnerships. With our amazing partners and members, we are bringing real-world solutions to the table. Now it’s up to national governments to permit, empower and, crucially fund, brave local leaders to deliver their plans for a co-operative recovery.
Thank you to our members who support our policy work through membership of Co-operatives UK.