Blog article

General election 2017: co-operative view on the party manifestos

This page will update regularly with comment and analysis of key developments for co-operatives in the UK General Election.

The 2017 general election is an opportunity for political parties of all stripes to put substance behind the rhetoric of creating a more inclusive economy. We have set out four steps to creating a more inclusive economy which we think any government ought to be taking. Now, as the political parties unveil their manifestos, we examine the detail to see what they say they will do to support and grow the UK’s co-operative sector and create the more inclusive economy we need.

Green Party (22 May)

The party's manifesto sets out how government could help ordinary people be the agents of positive change.

Key policies for co-ops include:

  • supporting and promoting small businesses, co-operatives and mutuals 
  • supporting start-ups through community credit
  • investing in community-owned energy
  • pursuing community-led collaborative approaches to tackling all forms of extremism
  • backing community-led approaches to building affordable homes

Conservatives (18 May)

Despite pressure from many quarters, including Co-operatives UK and the Social Economy Alliance, the party’s manifesto has left out a number specific, practical ideas for how it will “forge an economy that works for everyone”.

The Conservatives could have said more about how they would equip people with the tools to be their own agents of positive change, such as co-ops.

“The time has now come to focus on Britain’s next big economic challenge: to foster growth that works for everyone”

Conservative Manifesto

The key policies that would offer genuine opportunities for co-ops are:

  • a UK Shared Prosperity Fund specifically designed to deliver inclusive growth and reduce inequalities
  • plans to equip small businesses with tools to export, including through consortia
  • new ‘frameworks’ for farmers to support food production and stewardship of the countryside
  • continue to support small businesses by reducing red tape
  • an employee 'right to request information' relating to the future direction of the company, alongside promised changes to take over rules this could create a more favorable framework for worker buyouts
  • a new cultural development fund to turn around communities
  • greater emphasis on co-produced local economic development
  • extension of the Coastal Communities Fund to 2022
  • making it easier for communities to benefit from the increase in land value from urban regeneration and development
  • recognition that an efficient and humane elderly care system which provides dignity is not merely a function of money, with a pledge to address system-wide issues relating to delivery 

Liberal Democrats (17 May)

The party's manifesto contains a range of commitments to support co-ops and a more social economy.

Key policies are:

  • fostering a diversity of types of business, including encouraging alternative models such as mutuals
  • ​supporting community energy schemes and encouraging councils to develop community energy-saving projects 
  • Enabling central and local government to prioritise employee-owned and community-benefit companies in awarding procurement contracts by strengthening the Social Value Act
  • In health and care, supporting innovation in how organizations can empower staff and patients
  • Supporting social investment, ensuring charities and social enterprises can access the support and finance they need to strengthen their governance and deliver innovative, sustainable solutions to challenges in their communities
  • Championing different forms of ownership in agriculture, including longer tenancies, share farming and community ownership
  • Investing £2 billion in rural broadband, with an emphasis on replicating community-led solutions
  • Establishng a £2 billion fund to help rural communities develop service hubs
  • encouraging employee ownership by giving workers in medium and large companies the 'right to request' shares

Plus there are a whole host of commitments that suggest the Liberal Democrats understand how important it is to empower workers and communities, while encouraging more responsible behavior from both citizens and businesses.

“Hot on the heels of Labour’s welcome emphasis on co-operatives, it is good to see the Liberal Democrats recognise the potential of mutuals, employee ownership and social enterprises to give everyone a greater stake in our economy. Their manifesto includes some positive ideas for letting people take greater control, such as reforming company law to include community benefit, using public procurement to support community development or giving staff and passengers a greater say over our railways.

Given the reins of power, we know that local people can come together to solve their own problems and make a better life for their communities, and the Lib Dem’s manifesto is clear in its commitment to supporting community politics and strengthening devolution. We look forward to seeing the other parties recognise how community groups, co-operatives and social enterprises can help build more inclusive economy.” 

Tony Armstrong CEO of Locality 

Labour Manifesto (16 May)

The party's manifesto identifies the importance of ownership and power in the economy and makes significant high-level commitments to back co-ops.

Key co-op commitments are:

  • widening ownership of our economy, with more democratic ownership structures
  • an ambition to double the size of the co-operative sector
  • introducing an employee “right to own,” making employees the buyer of first refusal when the company they work for is up for sale
  • supporting the creation of co-operatives to rival existing private energy suppliers
  • legislative reform to define co-operative ownership 
  • support for co-ops and inclusive growth from new national and regional investment banks 

“The Labour Manifesto contains a very welcome and ambitious commitment to creating a more inclusive economy. I applaud the fact that the major parties are coming forward with proposals to share the benefits of business more widely across the UK. Co-operatives and the wider social economy are accelerators for equality and we want to see a government that understands all forms of enterprise and can nurture a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

“Some of the best parts of Labour’s manifesto from a co-operative perspective are new, never leaked and a welcome sign that Labour recognises the need to put substance behind action beyond the state, where people are empowered to meet their own needs and aspirations, through their livelihoods, in their communities and in the market.”

 Ed Mayo, Co-operatives UK


Written by James Wright
Updated: 29/06/2017