Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of the Labour Group on Plymouth City Council, looks ahead to the launch of their manifesto for the May elections later today, a manifesto with co-operatives at its heart.

Plymouth has a proud tradition in the Co-operative movement. Everyone knows someone who is a member of the Co-operative Retail Society. Plymouth’s Co-operative Society was amongst the very earliest in the UK, being over 150 years old.

Plymouth has also a thriving Co-operative Funeral Service, banking and insurance sector. So we are well used to the Co-operative presence on our high streets.

In business, co-operatives and community enterprises are playing an important role in helping local communities to create jobs and training opportunities. The Millfields and the Wolseley Community Development Trusts support hundreds of jobs and businesses in the city and are home to important community services.

There is even a Co-operative Academy in Plymouth, at Lipson, one of the first schools of its kind in the country. Whether in job creation or education Plymouth’s co-operatives are pioneering but their potential is even greater than that realised today.

Plymouth Labour Party wants to see these services continue and to become better but recent changes are making us change the way in which Councils go about making those services happen.

We want Plymouth City Council to be the place where local people can have their say about what is important to them and where they can change what happens in the area. People have told us that in the post-banking crisis world, they want a bigger say over the services that they rely on, to ensure that they can influence how those services are delivered.

We believe that by promoting co-operatives we can help to maintain more jobs in the local community, be they services that might otherwise be privatised or cut altogether. There are growing examples all over the country of this approach being a way of attracting new investment and ideas into making services better for the people who use them.

Should Labour win the City Council elections on Thursday 3 May, one of our earliest tasks will also be to see if some of the Council’s assets can be better used by charities, community groups, co-operatives and social enterprises to help them deliver more for the city.

The Welsh Assembly government is about to use a co-operative approach to encourage more housing to be built. We hope to foster this in our city too. We also wish to see Plymouth retain and develop its Fair Trade City status. Plymouth was one of the earliest to achieve this and the co-operative and faith communities played a huge part in making it happen.

Plymouth has never shied away from being pioneering, and under Labour our council will embrace co-operative principles and transform the way the city council works. And to those who say that becoming a Co-operative Council is about rebranding I say to them that it means much, much more. It is about changing the way the council works to put power back in the hands of voters and potential back into our city’s economy.

Let’s rise to the challenge.

Cllr Tudor Evans
Leader of the Labour Group on Plymouth City Council

Tudor is on Twitter at @CouncillorTudor