Jim Bowen 2011

Co-operative and low-carbon initiatives could help Labour win in rural constituencies was the message coming out of last week’s SERA/Friends of the Co-operative Ideal parliamentary seminar, reports Melanie Smallman of SERA who chaired the meeting

Titled ‘The Future of Rural Communities; jobs, services and community’, the seminar provided an opportunity for SERA and Co-operative MPs to discuss and debate up and coming policy ideas affecting rural communities and feed into Labour’s Policy Review Process.

Shadow Environment Food and Rural Affairs Minister Gavin Shuker MP, a Labour & Co-operative MP, led the debate, outlining the three key questions: What difference would having a Labour Government make for jobs in rural areas? What is our response when the market withdraws unprofitable but vital local services from rural communities?  How do we grow communities sustainably, without relying upon cheap and abundant oil?

Highlighting some possible solutions were writer and community rail pioneer Paul Salveson and the Co-operative Group’s Katharine Walters, who discussed how rural populations were changing, the role of rural entrepreneurs in generating jobs and how cooperatives have the potential to make UK farming more successful and to revive the high-streets.

‘The Future of Rural Communities’ was the second in a series of joint SERA/Friends of the Co-operative Ideal’ seminars that aim to start discussions on key environmental/co-operative issues.

Melanie Smallman is National Secretary of SERA, the Labour Environment Campaign