high angle view of cars on road between buildings
Photo by Serg Bataev on Unsplash

Community power is the Co-op Party’s DNA. That’s why when we campaign to Unlock the High Street, we’re not just asking for cash to regenerate pavements and shopfronts, we want to community ownership at the centre of that renewal. And when we campaign to save much-loved community assets with our “Love It? List It!” campaign, we’re not just asking for money to save the likes of pubs and post offices – we want those assets held in perpetuity for the benefit of the common good. Yet our members, councillors and the community face significant challenges to transformative change. That’s why we are delighted that on Monday, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary announced a substantial shift in Labour policy – and when better to fan the flames of co-operation than in the middle of a heatwave?

With this speech, Lisa Nandy MP outlined what Levelling Up will mean under Labour. We’ve called for common ownership to be put at the heart of Labour’s offer to left-behind communities, and she has embraced it. She has proposed a radical alternative to the Conservative’s increasingly insipid-looking Levelling Up agenda, and her vision is largely a co-operative one. Through our campaigns and policy work, we have highlighted the great work that is going on around the country by co-operators in communities and on councils. Lisa Nandy MP is promising that she will put rocket boosters under what has been achieved.

A Labour & Co-operative Government would introduce a Community Right to Buy, a substantial improvement on the Community Right to Bid. She would give “communities the opportunity to take control of pubs, historic buildings and football clubs that come up for sale or fall into disrepair.” Communities will have first refusal on assets of community value, on long-term vacant property, and the right to buy them without competition. Communities need longer than the current statutory 6 months to raise funds, and Labour will extend the time to 12 months. This is very welcome and is what we’ve called for to make widespread community ownership of valued assets a reality for many.

A Labour & Co-operative Government would also reform compulsory purchase orders to allow communities to bring public buildings into use – we’ve called for this as part of our Unlock the High Street Campaign.

In addition to legislative change, the Levelling Up Shadow Secretary announced a £28bn fund would be at the heart of Labour’s approach to Levelling Up. The fund has the aim of providing communities with an asset base on which to establish “strong, sustainable community businesses” which generate revenue to be held in common and used for the common good – once again, key to our suggested approach to Unlocking our High Streets Campaign.

These policies when taken together will put community ownership directly at the heart of the next Labour & Co-operative Government’s vision for “levelling up”. We want to give communities the power, time and funding they need to transform their own local areas, rather than go cap-in-hand to Whitehall. When co-operative values shape policy, the outcome is one where everyone has a say and a stake in their community’s success. That is community power in action.