This Thursday is election day for over 500 co-operative candidates across England from Swale to Sunderland. We took a look at some of their manifestos to see the difference that co-operative councillors could make… Anna Birley Policy Officer Caitlin Prowle Youth Organiser 30th April 2019 Earlier this year, we published our ‘12 ideas for local government’ – practical ways to work co-operatively in local areas and respond to the challenges we see in our communities. Through the work in Preston to introduce community wealth building, to over 80 councils who have signed the Co-operative Party’s Charter Against Modern Slavery, our ideas are providing practical solutions for local councillors – and this is reflected in manifestos across the country. Community wealth building and growing the local co-operative economies are a clear theme in many manifestos. In Bath and North East Somerset, for example, the Labour & Co-operative manifesto commits to encouraging major local organisations to buy goods and services from local co-operatives. West Oxfordshire Labour & Co-operative candidates have promised to set themselves the target of doubling the size of the local co-operative sector and in Swindon candidates are looking at how to turn the ‘Preston model’ into a Swindon model of local procurement and co-operative growth. Stoke-on-Trent’s co-operative candidates have promised to put this into practice with “a £3m Community Wealth Fund to support organisations making a sustainable difference in our towns” and in Sunderland the manifesto commits to working with anchor institutions to create a co-operative development fund. Pledges on community energy show that the energy market isn’t working for consumers or the environment. Stoke-on-Trent’s manifesto seeks to tackle fuel poverty by expanding their community energy switching programme, while in North Hertfordshire they’re committed to investing in renewable community energy schemes. They also want to explore promoting a not-for-profit energy supply – much like the Medway manifesto which pledges to create a low-cost energy company. Credit unions and community banks are at the heart of plans for a more responsible financial sector. Our banking sector isn’t working for normal people, with millions still without bank accounts, branches and ATMs closing, and a lack of affordable finance for SMEs and co-operatives to start-up and grow. The Labour & Co-operative mayoral candidate for the North of Tyne, Jamie Driscoll, proposes a People’s Bank to invest in local businesses – co-operatively owned by its customers. Many manifestos, including those in North Hertfordshire, North Warwickshire, Nottingham, Bath, Newcastle, Brighton and Hove, and Derby, focus on credit unions as ethical alternatives to high street banks and as a way to support learners, encourage saving and tackle financial exclusion. Private renting is a growing problem with co-operative solutions giving renters a voice, improving standards Following the publication of our guide, ‘Standing up for private renters’ last year, a growing cohort of co-operative councillors and candidates are taking action on the private rented sector. Plymouth’s manifesto promises to introduce landlord licensing if the sector fails to improve standards, and in Derby the manifesto looks to raise standards by establishing a local not-for-profit letting agency to provide fairer services and affordable rent, as does Medway. Giving private renters a collective voice is a clear theme too – including commitments in North Warwickshire, West Oxfordshire, Bracknell and Southampton to create private renters’ associations or unions. The support for community-led housing shows it is a relevant solution to a pressing problem. North Hertfordshire’s Labour & Co-operative manifesto promises to “seek opportunities to support new co-operative and community-led housing”. In Swale, the manifesto also commits to exploring tenant management schemes which give residents a say in how their homes are run. Commitments on food justice show our campaign is gaining ground. Our food justice campaign launched earlier this year highlights the problems of hunger and food poverty, and provides practical, community-led solutions which are finding their way into Labour & Co-operative manifestos across the country. For example, Bracknell’s manifesto says “a Labour-run council will offer help that exceeds statutory requirements” to tackle hunger. Bath’s commits to helping food banks set up a co-operative to eliminate food poverty, reduce food waste and support local producers. West Oxfordshire’s co-operative candidates have proposals to tackle holiday hunger and promote community growing projects, while in Milton Keynes the manifesto pledges £30,000 to tackle hunger in schools.