Daniel Monaghan Policy Officer 11th May 2022 Blog Share Tweet Yesterday the Government unveiled its programme for legislation in the Queen’s Speech. At the Co-operative Party, we were disappointed to see the lack of vision to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis, reduce inequality, and achieve meaningful levelling-up. While it is a missed opportunity by the Government to create a fairer, more co-operative society – there are several pieces of legislation which we believe can be made more co-operative and progressive. Levelling up should be about empowering communities across the UK, with greater decision making powers on issues which matters to them. This should be at the heart of the Government’s Levelling Up Bill and we will promote greater devolution of levelling up funding to local authorities – including the Towns Fund, the Shared Prosperity Fund and the Levelling Up Fund. We support the introduction of a High Street Buyout Fund, which can help local communities to revitalise their town centres by taking over vacant properties, but urge caution on the auction of leases to the highest bidder which runs contrary to communities having more control. The new Procurement Bill offers the opportunity to enable local authorities to undertake more ethical procurement of goods and services – so taxpayers’ money no longer ends up with oligarchs and in tax havens. Allowing social value to be an important consideration – rather than just the cheapest provider – will mean local authorities are no longer legally forced to contract with companies such as Gazprom, the state-backed Russian energy giant. The Co-operative Party will be working to ensure the Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, takes action to strengthen ethical procurement in local authorities. The Energy Security Bill will enact legislation to take forward the Energy Security Strategy, which was published recently by the Government. While the Strategy was disappointing in its lack of vision or focus on community energy, we will be advocating for a strong and growing role for community energy in achieving energy security. We will be calling for both a new National Community Energy Fund, which provides support for rural, urban, and retrofit projects across the UK, and a National Community Energy Strategy, which should provide a plan for how to expand the sector and reduce our reliance on global fluxes. With the Government intent on changing the ownership of Channel 4 through the Media Bill, the Party will be working to ensure that the award-winning channel can remain publicly owned through a mutual model. By having Channel 4 owned by its viewers, the public and its workers, we can make sure it still maintains its public service duty and increases the voice of viewers in its programming. A mutual model for Channel 4 would ensure it is free from political interference and would safeguard it from privatisation in the future. Ending modern slavery is one of the great challenges of our time. The Co-operative Party have been ardent campaigners on the issue for many years and we want to see strengthened action to end modern slavery through the new Bill. As part of the new Modern Slavery Bill, we will be fighting for the extension of Section 54 (concerning transparency in supply chains) to public sector bodies. We also want to see greater enforcement of modern slavery reporting from private sector firms over £36m turnover. The dramatic reduction in access to bank branches have meant many communities are increasing facing financial exclusion. The Co-operative Party want to see access to cash guaranteed for all people and communities in the UK. We support action to preserve the ‘last bank in town’ and universal banking access. We will be calling for greater support for the credit union movement, so that affordable and accessible banking can be made available to everyone. As the cost-of-living hits people across the UK, more needs to be done to help private renters. The new Renters’ Reform Bill should enshrine greater protection for tenants and increased accountability and scrutiny on landlords. We will be calling on the Government to establish a new national private tenants association, to represent the shared interests of renters across the UK. Finally, the Co-operative Party will aim to ensure the new Economic Crime Bill delivers on its promise to increase transparency of ownership in the UK. More needs to be done to strengthen Companies House so that they can effectively monitor and investigate companies suspected of wrongdoing. Through our efforts to shape these legislative bills, we will campaign for a more transparent and just economy, that boosts co-operation and community power to achieve real levelling up. We are calling on the Government to take these actions now, so we can begin to tackle the great challenges the UK faces.