The Government has stated that the May elections are on. There is a lot of concern about whether that will be feasible, and the basic opportunity for residents to hear from and speak to their prospective representatives safely in person remains an unanswered question. That’s before we consider some polling stations are currently being used for Covid testing or delivering vaccinations. Local democracy is precious, it shouldn’t be treated so lightly by this Government.

But timing of the elections aside, whenever they come, there will be a unique opportunity to put co-operation on the ballot paper.

The Co-op Party’s unique relationship with Labour means that you can be a member of both parties and if selected by both stand as a Labour & Co-operative candidate – with 27 Labour & Co-op MPs and well over a thousand councillors the Co-op Party embodies the best characteristics of the wider Labour Movement: a commitment to equality and community, a transformative policy platform, a focus on the bread-and-butter issues which matter to people. Rooted firmly in the communities we represent, we are Labour, but we are Labour & Co-operative.

Our councillors and members have been at the forefront of much that has been positive during the Coronavirus crisis, active in Covid-19 support groups, setting up community mutual aid groups, food banks and food partnerships, helping key workers in shops, fighting for food justice and now volunteering as part of the vaccine programme. Sounds like you? I would encourage all those considering standing and who have already been selected to join the Co-operative Party and apply to stand as Labour & Co-operative on the ballot paper. I made the decision to join the Co-op Party over a decade ago, and I would recommend anyone in Labour with an interest in local government to do the same.

The process is simple and streamlined: you join and apply for endorsement and the application is considered by the local Co-op branch. If approved, your campaign will be is likely to receive some financial support from the Party, but more importantly you will be enrolled into the Party’s Candidate Development Programme run by its hugely experienced Local Government Officer, be in contact with our network of regional and national party officers, and be part of the Party’s hugely supportive councillor network – perhaps the Labour Movement’s best kept open secret.

But as welcome as all that is, it’s not what truly distinguishes candidates endorsed by the Co-operative Party. The Co-op difference is about our approach and our policy platform. Running through our approach is the importance of doing things with people, not for them. It is what has shaped our own local government manifestos in the past and help guide our approach in opposition in Medway. The Party’s policy platform, embodied in our 12 ideas for local government, addresses how we want to work with people to improve our communities together. Whether it’s community wealth-building (aka the Preston model), giving tenants a voice, protecting our community assets, supporting the credit union movement or the other ideas in policy platform, Co-operative Party councillors are at the cutting edge of ensuring that our communities are resilient enough to rebound from the pandemic.