the big ben clock tower towering over the city of london
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

The first King’s Speech of King Charles reign will take place on 7th November – ushering in a new era but with little signs of change from the Government. The King’s Speech provides the opportunity for a government to set out an ambitious legislative agenda, which would help deliver the change the UK so desperately needs. Below we lay out what the Co-operative Party believes is necessary to start building a legislative agenda for meaningful change – helping to spread power and wealth to all communities.

The Co-operative Party and the Labour Party are committed to doubling the size of the co-operative sector. To achieve this, we will need a new set of legislation which establishes co-operative development hubs across the country and a new co-operative development unit operating across Whitehall. This should be accompanied by legislation to enable new models for financing co-operatives, the establishment of mutual guarantee societies and modernisation of legislation surrounding credit unions and building societies. This legislative agenda will help remove the barriers to co-operative growth throughout the UK – enabling the co-operative movement to spread its benefits – including greater business resilience, higher productivity rates and a greater stake for workers.

An ambitious legislative programme must also seek to transform our energy system, with the goal of reducing consumer bills and transitioning to clean renewable energy as quickly as possible. Community owned energy development should be a centrepiece in the energy transition – helping to democratise the energy system by creating a new generation of energy owners across the country. The proposals laid out in Labour’s Local Power Plan should be put into legislation – including record levels of funding which could enable the creation of 1 million new community energy owners and power equivalent to three power stations.

It’s clear the current Conservative Government is overly centralised, depriving communities of the rights and powers needed to take the lead in transforming their local areas. The Co-operative Party want to see our communities empowered to rejuvenate their local high street and economies. New legislation should be introduced to establish a Community Right to Buy, which would provide communities with first refusal of assets of community value. These community assets should include shops, pubs, cinemas, music venues, football clubs, leisure centres and even local bus routes.

The new Community Right to Buy would enable community groups to purchase and regenerate the assets to help create new mixed-use spaces, providing leisure, retail and even residential offerings. Already we are seeing local and community owned initiatives across the country in rural and urban areas and the Government should be committed to expanding community-led regeneration.

The Government must also ensure our communities and workers are safe and secure, able to go about their daily lives and work without fear of threat or violence. As the current Government have failed to control rising levels of crime on our high streets, it is clear new legislation must be put in place to protect shopworkers and staff. The Shadow Home Secretary has committed to creating a standalone offence for retail crime, similar to the Protection of the Retail Workers Act in Scotland, which has led to an increase in reporting and police follow up on retail crime. Enacting this legislative change will help to ensure persistent and repeat offenders are held to account for harm they do workers, communities and high street businesses.

Through this legislative agenda, we believe a fairer, more prosperous economy can be built. Britain must seize the opportunity of the net zero challenge to rethink our energy system – putting communities in control of new renewable energy generation. The Co-operative Party hopes the next King’s Speech is not another wasted opportunity to deliver the change Britain deserves.