A co-operative council is a new type of local authority; it’s about giving people more involvement and control of the services they use and the places where they live by putting council resources in their hands. It endeavours to take a more bottom-up approach.
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Particularly in the UK, this new form of government is emerging amid calls for a redefinition of the relationship between councils and their communities – “providing services with local people, rather than for them”.
The Co-operative Councils Network The Co-operative Councils Network is a network of Labour Councils in the UK implementing co-operative policies and ways of providing services which propose to give communities power and a real say over the ways they are run.
So far, over 20 councils in the UK have joined this new framework, which promises to reinvent the traditional model of the council as a tool of social empowerment. Yet more councils will come on board as the Network develops. The Network is run by the Co-operative Party, supported by the Local Government Association Labour Group.
Nevertheless, that which is described in theory can quite often prove difficult to put into practice. Therefore, in order to have a real sense of just how co-operative councils can function at the local level, please find below a variety of examples of what these types of councils can mean for a community.
- Case-study 1: Lambeth Co-operative Council
Lambeth ‘co-operative’ Council was one of the UK's first co-operative councils. That means in future the council will do things with local people instead of doing things for them. Cooperative projects around Lambeth A range of co-operative projects around Lambeth: these include projects where the council has given new powers direct to residents or transferred its assets and others which are community-led initiatives that fit in with the council's cooperative ethos. Activities include identification of green/open “unloved” spaces and putting up signs in particular spots asking what people want from that area or how it could be improved. Other examples of projects/initiatives: Brixton pound (£B), Edible bus stop, Brixton Energy Solar 1, Open Data, Young Lambeth Co-operative (YLC), Community Freshview, and many more.
- Case-study 2: Plymouth Co-operative Council
Plymouth Co-operative Council provides an alternative co-operative model for Plymouth schools. Co-operative schools will allow pupils, teachers, parents, local people and employers to become members of the trust, forming a community-based mutual organisation. Membership is open to students, alumni, staff, parents and the community and anyone can join so long as they are committed to the values and principles of the International Co-operative Alliance. Article source Lipson Co-operative Academy is already operating a co-operative model of education and has been providing support within the local area. For instance, it aims to promote learning for the entire community and will offer a range of other courses and workshops for parents, carers and the wider community.