In recent days the Welsh Government has underscored its commitment to the co-operative and mutual sector, with First Minister Carwyn Jones setting out his administration’s programme for government for the coming years, entitled ‘Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021’.
‘Taking Wales Forward’ sets out how the Labour & Co-operative Government will deliver more and better jobs through a stronger, fairer economy, improve and reform public services and build a united, connected and sustainable Wales. The co-operative movement and its values and principles provide inspiration in commitments ranging from financial inclusion to transport – this will all be backed up by specific tailored support for co-operative and mutual businesses.
The roadmap identifies the role that community energy will play in delivering environmental commitments and generating sustainable rural communities. This work has begun; a fantastic example of this is in Bethesda, on the edge of Snowdonia, where the Welsh government is trailing a revolutionary local energy market scheme, investing £90,000 to incentivise the use of local hydro produced energy by local households.
This commitment is backed by Labour & Co-operative action in Westminster. Last week Cardiff South & Penarth MP Stephen Doughty outlined the difference in approach between the Westminster and Welsh Government’s on community energy. He pressed the Conservative Government to take the opportunity the Wales Bill affords to repair the damaging changes to community energy’s regulatory regime to help facilitate a new community energy revolution in Wales ..
Other measures within the ‘Taking Wales Forward’ plan include:
- Tackling financial inclusion, the Welsh Labour government will continue to support financial advice services and promote credit unions throughout Wales.
- The full implementation of the Wales Social Services and Wellbeing Act (2014), which will include measures to ensure that social care in Wales stays clear of profit first private company motivation and moves towards a more co-operative and mutual future.
On transport, developing a new not-for-profit rail franchise will ensure it is social value rather than financial gain that determines the shape of rail services. Looking towards the wider co-operative involvement in Wales’ transport infrastructure, Jeremy Miles AM, who chairs the group of Co-operative Party Group in the Assembly, recently asked the First Minister what role co-operative business models would play a role in the delivery of the South Wales Metro Rail system. The video of the exchange can be seen here
The Co-operative movement well understands the importance of community assets, and fully supports the action taken to protect the pubs, libraries, museums, arts centres, leisure centres and other institutions that form the foundation of our communities. Commitments in this area includes introducing measures to prevent unnecessary closures of community assets, and where appropriate helping communities take full ownership.
In the coming years it is clear that the co-operative movement in Wales has an important role in the transformation of Wales envisioned within the plan for Government.