Last June, 12.8 million people voted for a different kind of Britain – one no longer scarred by inequalities of wealth and opportunity, and one in which we can all have a stake in the wealth we produce together.
Today, we take a step toward making that ambition a reality. As Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell announced today, the Co-operative Party has commissioned experts to produce an independent report which will set out the steps necessary to double the size of the co-operative sector.
The independent report will be produced by the New Economics Foundation think-thank, and will undertake a detailed analysis of the current UK co-operative sector, the obstacles the sector faces, and impediments to its growth. Drawing on international comparisons – such as the Netherlands, France, Finland and New Zealand where co-operatives amount to over 10% of GDP compared to 2% in the UK, the report will include actions that policymakers would need to take in order to create an environment where the sector can grow substantially.
It will identify potential improvements to legal and regulatory conditions, and make suggestions on the types of institutional support – such as development agencies – that could be put in place. Finally, the Report will also reflect on the wider economic and social benefits that the UK could enjoy from having a substantially larger co-operative sector.
At the General Election in June last year, we were delighted to see a Labour Manifesto that committed a Labour & Co-operative government to doubling the size of the sector, bringing it “in line with other countries such as Germany and the US”.
But as co-operators, we understand that it is practical action that give power to our words.
Separately, the Co-operative Party will separately be working with Labour to convene an implementation group that will ensure the ideas, experiences and voice of the co-operative sector are heard at the highest levels as we plan for a future Labour & Co-operative government.
Drawing on the feedback of these activists and co-operators, we will road test ideas, identify opportunities and learn lessons that can be applied in government, and identify the support that they will need to rapidly develop.
These two exciting initiatives, together with Thursday’s announcement on local government and our forthcoming report on democratic public ownership set the Co-operative Party on an exciting and ambitious path, and open significant opportunities for the co-operative movement in the years ahead.
They stem from our conviction that to build a fairer and more equal society co-operation must be the template for the kind of country that together we will build.