The Year So Far

As we reach the summer recess in Parliament it’s an opportunity to look back and celebrate some of the achievements and successes of the Co-operative Party in recent months.

From here in Westminster to the Senedd and Holyrood; from local councillors to regional mayors; with our members, supporters, and elected representatives at all levels, the Party has continued to be an effective champion and advocate of our movement in so many ways.

One of the most significant political events this year was May’s elections, where we saw a record number of Co-operative candidates standing for election. In every nation and region we increased the number of co-operative councillors, and in Scotland and Wales we doubled our existing representation.

Thanks to the efforts of our candidates, members and campaigners during the election, we now have over 1,200 Co-operative councillors in office. A record high for the Party.

We were also able to continue our growth in membership, too, with another record figure of 13,000 members alongside our significant supporters list.

But as always, however fantastic to see what’s really important is that these numbers allow us to continue in the spirit of co-operation in being put to action, and making a difference where it matters most.

And we’ve been doing just that.

On campaigns, we’ve been active on addressing food insecurity, modern slavery, violence against retail workers, threats to de-mutualisation, the use of pesticides damaging to bees, supporting community energy, fair tax, support for high streets, and so much more.

We’ve had some vital wins, too.

From securing changes in Government legislation that provides greater support for shop workers against unacceptable behaviour, to galvanising support to prevent the de-mutualisation of LV=, and securing more council action against food injustice, modern slavery, and for the Fair Tax Declaration, to name but a few.

In these successes, the actions taken by our representatives, members and supporters has been absolutely critical.


Looking Forward

But it’s not enough to let-up now and rest on our laurels as a Party and movement. Whilst significant achievements have been made, the many challenges, threats and crises facing us on horizon ensure it’s absolutely incumbent on us all to continue offering practical, co-operative solutions to them.

A key part of this effort is increasing our influence; in our policy offer, our campaigns, our organisational support, our work alongside others in the co-operative movement and co-operative retail societies, and our pathway to Co-operative representation at all levels.

We’ve already made much of a start on this, with a number of Co-operative Prospective Parliamentary Candidates already selected in key seats ahead of the next General Election, for example, ready to champion our movement in new ways and new areas.

Following recess, we’ll be flying the Co-operative Party flag at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool by hosting important events on the case for a co-operative economy, food justice, fan ownership in football and tackling dirty money in the UK.

And as well as our fraternal greetings to our sister party, we’ll be taking part in the Stronger Together rally that will look to bring the wider Labour family together and help determine our direction and policy ahead of the next General Election, ensuring a strong co-operative voice is heard within it.

We’ll also be returning to our first in-person conference in three years, when co-operators from across the UK will come together in Leeds around a fantastic programme that will help shape our Party on questions of policy, engagement, and the steps we have to take into the future to remain effective.

In Westminster, Holyrood and the Senedd we’ll be active in championing the needs and interests of our movement in Parliament, engaging in legislation on issues including community ownership, mutual financial services, modern slavery, community energy, and employee ownership.


The Cost-of-Living Crisis

And most importantly, we must continue to focus on the things that matter to people and make a difference to their everyday lives, and in the immediate future for many that takes the form of the cost-of-living crisis.

So far to address this problem we’ve been working to drive up uptake of Healthy Start Vouchers; helping implement Food Champions to ensure access to good, healthy food is a core focus of local authorities in our communities; and calling for an increase in Healthy Start value in line with inflation so those who depend on them aren’t left behind.

We’ve started to look to support and promote mutual financial services both through legislation in Westminster, so that affordable credit and responsible services are available to those who require them through this period.

Where many are finding childcare costs increasingly prohibitive as they feel the pinch, we’ve started work with the co-operative movement and colleagues in the Labour movement to address this and other challenges faced by the sector, and how we can deliver an early years system that truly works for parents, children and staff.

And in our plan for community owned energy, we’ve set out our approach to how the co-operative sector can play a key role in tackling the energy crisis, as bills continue to spiral.


The Case for Co-operation

Amongst this all, at the very core of our mission must always be our fundamental purpose as a Party: to represent the interests of the co-operative movement and seek the growth of the sector.

One of the many ways in which the Party will do this is through directly supporting the Private Members Bill legislation proposed by Co-operative MP Sir Mark Hendrick that will be brought before the House of Commons shortly after summer. The Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Bill reflects the call within our movement to open up investment in the sector, give greater support to co-operatives and mutuals, and provide a vital means by which they can continue to grow and develop.

Before then, the summer break can often provide welcome respite from the cut and thrust of the political world – though we may not be so lucky this year as the decision over our future Prime Minister looks set to occupy the airwaves.

But looking at our successes so far this year and the significance of the challenges we face for the rest of it, it’s vital throughout it all that we don’t lose sight of our role: to continue to prove the value of our Party in effectively addressing the issues that really matter, and employing the strengths of our proud movement to do so.