Matt Partridge, Chair of the Co-operative Party Youth National Committee, reports on the work of the network in the last year.

The Co-operative Party has always put young people and youth issues at the centre of its agenda; and since joining the Party and becoming involved in the co-operative movement I have met some of the most passionate and youth friendly activists in the UK.  However, as a formal institution Co-operative Party Youth is still relatively young, only being formed in the late noughties, but, since its creation, its membership has expanded rapidly, expanding up to just under a thousand members this year, as has the scope and scale of the work we do.

With unprecedented attacks on the opportunities of young people in our country by this coalition government, and the general push to get back Labour back into the heart of communities, reconnecting with its foundations through the Refounding Labour project and Movement 4 Change, Co-operative Party Youth and the wider co-operative movement must be there on the ground telling young people that mutualism offers a genuine alternative to the ‘cut, cut and cut again without thinking of the consequencesapproach of the con-dem administration or a heavily top-down government which risks drowning out the voices of those at the bottom; on our streets and those working in our communities for those communities.

Co-operative Party Youth has some of the most exciting, imaginative, pragmatic and passionate campaigners in the Labour movement.  Our activists have been central in campaigns across the country over the last twelve months, including the Funding our Future campaigns around student funding and cuts to our education system, and the TUC march in London; they have also been making a massive impact on the doorstep in the Scottish and Welsh elections and the English local elections, as well as turning out for key by-elections.  As a youth movement we are constantly fighting for a fairer future for this – and the next – generation; however, at our general assembly at the Co-operative Party Summerfest in St Andrews this year we chose for a priority campaign to tackle an issue that has a massive impact on many people of all ages from across society.  The campaign to put an end to legal loan sharking has been promoted and run by the Labour and Co-operative MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy and has been adopted by Co-operative Party Youth as its priority campaign for the coming year.  At a time when low income families are struggling to make the most basic ends meet these companies are offering easy cash but with a massive and dangerous price tag attached.  A lot of our upcoming work for this campaign will be the education of, and promotion of, credit unions as a safe and co-operative way of accessing money at a time when the banks are more and more reluctant to trust in the people that bailed them out; the British Taxpayer.

Co-operative Party Youth is rapidly expanding among our Young Labour groups, youth organisations and in our FE and HE institutions – please read Ashley Walsh’s great article on Co-operatives on Campus for more information on the work we’re doing with University groups and how to get involved.  There has never been an easier time to get involved in Co-operative PartyYouth or for young people to become part of the co-operative movement and forge its future.  Anyone under 30 can get involved in Co-operative Party Youth and if you’re under 26 you can join the Co-operative Party for a mere £5, which all goes towards the work that Co-operative Party Youth does and the huge and direct impact it has on the ground.   The promotion and strengthening of the youth rate and Co-operative Party Youth as an institution is paramount to guaranteeing the future of the co-operative movement and signals that promoting the importance of young people in our movement and in our society is more than just a ‘ticking the box’ exercise.