Whilst for many the summer is a good chance to have a deserved break, switch off, and come back recharged and reinvigorated, here in the Co-operative Party it was an opportunity to continue some of the fantastic work we’ve been doing in recent months.

An important part of that includes going back to basics, and ensuring the Party and our members are doing everything we can to champion the co-operative movement and the fantastic stories it has to tell.

I was able to see this first-hand when I visited newly established co-ops in Manchester, to hear about their experiences of starting up and the benefits they’ve received from their co-operative models.

As an adopter of the Co-operative Commission model the city region will be important in building an economy that works for working people, supporting local economies and communities.

Co-ops like Chorlton Bike Deliveries and People Powered Retrofit are great examples of co-operatives coming to the fore during difficult times and looking out for their communities.

In doing everything from providing well paid, secure green jobs, to offering services and support for those who can’t access their GP practices, for example, these co-operatives and the thousands of others like them across the country are examples of how co-ops can succeed to everyone’s benefit.

As we look to increase the size of the co-operative sector, it is these stories we are telling to ensure their transformative impact can be felt by even more people.

And in our ever-increasing membership, we have the pioneers in communities across the country to put these lessons into practice so we can make that a reality.

That’s why I was delighted the Party undertook its second online Summer School for newer members, to ensure everyone at every level of the Party has the tools and knowledge they need to make the co-operative difference.

Through our Summer School, new members have been hearing about everything from our history and heritage, our unique relationship with the Labour Party, the work of our elected representatives, and how they too can put our co-operative values and principles into practice.

Along with engagement in our campaigns, our local and national candidate training programmes, Co-operative Live events, and opportunities to represent us, our Summer School is just one part of a whole package that ensures we harness the strength of our co-operative endeavour for the good of our movement.

And as our current elected representatives return to their respective Parliaments and Town Halls across the UK, we’ll be making sure the case for co-operation and the benefits of our movement are championed there, too.

In Westminster alone, for instance, the first few days of our return to Parliament saw Co-operative MPs hold debates in the Commons on matters that are absolutely central to the prosperity of our movement, from advocating legislation to support co-operative employee buy-outs that would expand the sector, to standing up for tougher laws that would safeguard mutual institutions and prevent their sale to investment firms that put profit before people.

Alongside these core co-operative campaigns we’ll still be working on the issues that sit at the very heart of our co-operative principles, too.

For instance, the Government’s cut to Universal Credit will have a damaging impact in pushing hundreds of thousands of people below the poverty line. Food justice is a founding principle of our movement, and we know that the biggest cause of food insecurity is poverty. There’s little doubt that such a cut will have a devastating impact on people’s ability to access good, healthy food.

But even if we weren’t able to convince Tory MPs of the social and moral case, that they ignore the economic case is reckless, as we eye up a bumpy recovery through and beyond Christmas. For my town the £20 a week cut amounts to £35.6m taken from the local economy.

The Party has once again stood up and supposed efforts to oppose this cut, and I’m delighted to see it is Co-operative MPs who are leading the cause.

On these issues and so many others the Party is continuing to stand up for what matters to us as a movement, and ensuring that our members and representatives at all levels are championing our co-operative values and solutions.

Finally, I want to add my thanks to all the frontline workers across our society for the work they continue to do in supporting our recovery through Covid. While we fought and won for you to be acknowledged as Key Workers, for many especially in retail, I know it has been an extremely difficult time with threats and abuse increasing. No-one should be at risk because of the work they do in supporting our communities, let alone such important frontline workers.

I’m looking forward to our work continuing, as it’s only by working together that we can make the co-operative difference that we all need.