Country: Oldham, UK
Oldham is a co-operative council with an ambition to build a co-operative borough. This means everybody - citizens, local authorities and businesses alike - doing their bit and everybody benefiting.
Photo courtesy of oldham.ca.uky.edu
Oldham, like most local authorities, is facing prolonged reduction in revenue, which seriously affects its ability to continue to provide the full range of services that are currently provided at a time when the demand for those services is rising. The ever widening gap between supply and demand had, therefore, to be urgently addressed. At the same time, Oldham had other significant problems. There was a severe disconnect between residents and the Council as the residents did not trust the Council although they valued the services it provided. There was a significant problem of unemployment with the Oldham rate being the highest in Greater Manchester and also with those in work being primarily paid very low wages.
The incoming administration had, therefore, to address the issue of how to improve the town, to secure additional inward investment particularly in jobs to allow residents more opportunities to improve their quality of life and to protect the services needed by the most vulnerable despite the reduction in resources. Their solution? To go co-operative.
Creating a cooperative council
The Oldham co-operative approach means changing the Council's relationship with residents, with partners and with local businesses so that they work together for the good of the borough. It required an ambitious change strategy for the organisation alongside radical plans to transform how decisions are made, services are delivered and most importantly the town as a place.
The first step was to hold a Borough-wide ‘co-operative conversation’ to engage as many voices as possible in shaping the approach, the opportunities and most importantly the values which would be the foundation for the whole agenda. Through a partnership Co-operative Commission this was put into a Co-operative Charter.
How it works
Within the council, employees are working to ensure all of its policies, procedures and practices are co-operative. This means that fundamental changes have been made to the way the organisation works. Changes include:
- Living Wage
As part of our co-operative commitment Oldham Council has adopted the local living wage for all council employees.
The council has introduced a social value model for procurement. This will ensure that all the money the council spends to deliver services provides additional social value for the borough.
Devolving power to local areas
The administrative area of Oldham was created out of a number of smaller district councils and as a result consists of six distinct neighbourhoods, each consisting of three or four wards. Each is covered by a District Partnership, which are formal committees of the council with decision making powers and involve other partners such as the police and the NHS.
In order to reinforce the importance of local neighbourhoods and engage as many people as possible in the Co-operative Council a ‘Love where you Live’ campaign, along with other initiatives, was launched on 14th February 2012, which encouraged individuals to make a pledge to make a difference and also publicising community activities and activists.
A Co-operative Oldham Fund is being developed which residents can bid into to fund schemes or enterprises of value to the town and we are also seeking to develop a ‘divvy’ – a reward scheme for contributions to the community, which hopefully can be used to secure reductions in the costs of goods and services.