A Beeston community social enterprise has been given a four-month extension by Labour-led Leeds Council to give them more time to put together a bid in order to take control over a sports centre that was due to close on 21 June, creating a social enterprise scheme costing £1.5m.

There are already successful examples of the benefits of moving to a community social enterprise on co-operative libes. In 1992, Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL) took over from the in-house provider of leisure services for Greenwich Borough Council in South London which was facing budget cuts. The council, after looking at several options, opted for a not-for-profit ‘leisure trust’, owned by the staff, which worked to provide and manage sport and health programmes that reach all sectors of the community and ensure financial viability. The board that runs the trust is made-up of stakeholders including customers, council, and the workforce in the community and any surpluses generated through the trust is reinvested to provide long-term benefits for the community. GLL now manages seventy public leisure centres within the M25, plus Crystal Palace Park and the National Sports Centre.

In a speech to the LGA last week, Karen Wilkie, Deputy General Secretary of the Co-operative Party, stated, “Mutually owned businesses and social enterprises have an important part to play in the national and local economies. They not only generate wealth and employment, but their profits are retained in the community to the benefit of other local businesses or, often, used directly for the benefit of the community.”

Although the residents of Beeston are developing their own detailed plans, they could look at the ‘Greenwich Model’, which provides the freedom and flexibility to react to customers and market expectations; where local residents can join as members and have the opportunity to stand for election to the Board, which sets the policies, strategies, and objectives for the organisation; where the community controls its services.

Time after time we’re finding this cooperative approach of handing more power to local people delivers better services at lower cost and strengthens communities at the same time.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Leader, LGA Labour Group