My name is Jo Bird, I’m from Co-operative Alternatives Northern Ireland as well as CBC.
This conference addresses some of the key economic issues of our time – such as how to promote and run businesses and services where people and the environment come first.
Around the world, it is co-operatives that are at the forefront ofmeeting the needs of communities for clean energy, wholefood, decent jobs, good housing, affordable credit, healthcare, education and creativity. Because business ownership changes what a business does.
However, in the UK there are specific challenges to the co-operative model, dueto the high profile crisis and unethical behaviour of the so called Co-operative Bank and the Co-operative Group.Board and senior management failed to apply tried and tested co-operative principles. The crises raised questions about how large co-ops are best governed by their members.
The so called “Co-operative” Bank continues to use Co-operative in its name, but in our ongoing development of a new co-operative economic strategy, we all need to say very clearly that the Bank is not a co-operative – it is owned by hedge fund capital and has their ethics and values. It should not have co-operative in its name nor should it be included as part of the co-op family.
Another challenge for public services and co-operatives is that, particularly in England, national and local governments have talked aboutmutualisation of public services when it is actually privatisation by the back door.
We want to debate ways forward. Not in a private room or think tank, but together. No single one of us has all the answers. But all of us have some of the answer.
Who are we here today? Please raise your hand if you are a member of a democratic co-op or credit union? Who here is a member of a trade union? So we are all part of a collective movement of democratic, membership organisations that prioritise the common good, over private individual profit. Why is that? Because we know we achieve more together than alone. We work best as a partnership team of co-operators, trade unions and political parties.
Thank you to conference sponsors who helped make this conference more accessible to more people – Anthony Collins Solicitors, North West Housing Services, Co-operative Energy, Co-operative and Community Finance, the Co-operative Party, Co-operatives UK, and Unison.
Please welcome the shadow chancellor of the exchequer, John McDonnell.
We will continue this debate with contributions of no more than two minutes each. We are not looking for questions nor point scoring – we are looking for actual and useful experiences relevant to this debate.
It is time for a new kind of politics, so I would like to give first priority to people not used to speaking early in these situations – so that we all benefit from diverse perspectives (from people whose first language is not English, people under 24, ethnic minorities, and female voices).