As the Co-operative Party meets in London for its annual conference, there are few areas that are creating more excitement within the movement than the co-operative councils agenda.

There’s a genuine sense that local government is the perfect place to be putting co-operative values back into action. Back in July we launched our Co-operative Councils Network with Ed Miliband – thirteen Labour councils who want to pioneer co-operative approaches in their local services and transform the way they work with the community. There are three key reasons why this agenda is so important:

Firstly – it is in local government, where we are actually in power across the country. Here we can demonstrate Labour and Co-operative values through action, and show we have fresh ideas for the future.

It is in local government that we can choose to be defined in contrast to the other political parties by the decisions we make, the communities we build, the way we support and empower people and the way we spend money (what little there is).

And that’s the key point – in a time of brutal cuts to local government, new approaches to service delivery are inevitable to meet the challenges we face, as we continue to support our local communities. Harnessing the potential of co-operatives, mutuals and of our local residents could provide positive new ways to deliver services that are flexible, personalised and more effective.

Secondly, local government has influence over so many public policy areas. We are seeing our co-operative councils start to develop pilots in a whole range of public services. For example, in housing, Rochdale are mutualising their entire housing stock. Liverpool are using co-operative approaches and working with communities to help them take control of their local environmental and anti-social behavioural issues. Oldham have established three Co-operative Trust schools and Lambeth are replacing top-down youth services with new co-operative approaches led by young people. In health and wellbeing, Kirklees have developed a highly successful co-operative project aimed at creating new healthy living activities and opportunities for adults in the borough.

Moreover, aside from service delivery, the council has power to instill co-operative values throughout its own organisation, using it’s role as a major employer and through its purchasing power. Oldham have developed a Co-operative Charter for all companies and groups delivering services through the council, and Sunderland are giving their employees the support to develop their own co-operative and mutual enterprises.

Thirdly local authorities are close to communities who are key to this agenda. They are the perfect part of the public sector to help redefine the relationship between the state and the citizen and forge a new approach to local public service delivery that is more personal, more flexible and more localised.

Co-operative approaches are inspiring Labour  councils around the country, as they seek new ways to give citizens more control over the services they receive without leaving them to sink or swim as the ‘big society’ approach threatens.

Cooperative councils are providing the opportunity for Labour to reclaim our values at local level, give communities greater control over their own lives, and, crucially, to ensure the state works with them in supporting them to transform their lives.

This article first appeared on LabourList as part of our Conference takeover