In Wales, supported by the Welsh Government the co-operative movement is going from strength to strength, and attending the recent Wales Co-operative Party conference our impact was clear to see.

The Conference brought together members, supporters and elected representatives from local government, the Senedd and Westminster, and it was a real pleasure to hear of the solutions we are offering to so many of the challenges we face.

In everything from housing, community ownership, education, community energy, sport, social care, and so much more, our record in making a positive difference is readily apparent.

What’s as important, however, is that this contribution continues.

A significant step towards this effort was announced by Co-operative MS and Minister for the Economy in Wales Vaughan Gething, who pledged £1.7m of funding a year for the next two years to help support businesses with the transition to employee ownership and to help develop new social enterprises.

This commitment will make a huge difference right across the economy, where alternative businesses like co-operatives that are rooted in their communities and operating in the interests of their members can continue to grow and thrive, and their impact felt by many more people.

The announcement is an important step towards the Co-operative Party’s core ambition to double the size of the co-operative sector – as the Welsh Government continues to make progress towards its aim of doubling the number of employee-owned businesses in Wales.

Our ambition was further bolstered by an announcement from Co-operative MS and Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles, of a pilot project to raise awareness and understanding of co-operatives in schools across Wales.

Named after Robert Owen, the Welsh Government-funded project will help educate and inform students about the role of co-operatives within the economy, and the wider social, environmental and economic they can have.

Raising awareness of the impact our movement can have is once again an essential component of its growth, and this announcement is yet another indication of the Welsh Government’s commitment to supporting the co-operative movement.

In Wales, we are truly showing the difference that a Labour and Co-operative Government can make.

The UK Government must learn lessons from these examples of vital development support and co-operative education, and the ideas from the Co-operative Party which can be found here.

Together, the Labour and Co-operative Parties share the ambition of doubling the size of the co-operative sector, and steps like those announced at the Wales Co-operative Party Conference are helping to provide the blueprint for realising the aim.