Speaker Notes: Co-operatives and the Public Sector

Co-operatives and the Public Sector: Regional Co-operation

Many European countries already operate a regional structure and have co-operatively owned banks, renewable energy providers and so forth. Indeed, some are co-owned through a local authority and cooperative membership enterprise. In Britain, we have largely been opportunistic, only creating regions because European investment streams were provided at a regional level.

However, in the light of ongoing inequalities, inefficiencies, excesses and environmental degradation caused by multi-national profit and party politically driven economics, more locally owned and controlled enterprises and multi-party structures are showing that they are on the whole, more egalitarian, produce more social value, are less environmentally damaging and overall, much more sustainable.

Social economy and local enterprises (largely, the not for personal profit sector) and regionally owned public services, are small enough to employ meaning democracy in their governance but large enough to produce the turnover needed to make them sustainable.

We must not neglect or ignore these negative outcomes from social economy enterprises; however, there is less likelihood of these failures, if the motivation is ‘for people and not for profit or for political party’. We need an economy that is not based on western multi-national companies, nor Chinese one party ownership models. Local Government and Social Economy Enterprise economies offer a genuine alternative.

To bring this about in Britain, we need;

1) A Constitutional Convention and Regional Devolution Bill. This needs to include legislation that permits cooperative banks and regional governments that can raise revenue and deliver services) and proportional representation. Funded by local and national government (Current devolution proposals need to be engaged with as a half way house).

2) The creation of Regional Social Economy Development forums from the social enterprise economy, local government and perhaps charitable and SME sector with strong Trade Union involvement.

3) A Cooperative and Social Enterprise Development Bill. Reworking the 2013 Bill.

Local Government, the Cooperative Party and the Cooperative and Social Enterprise Sectors have the resources to make this happen. But we need to co-operate on a regional basis.

John Merritt

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