The common endeavour of the Co-operative Councils: Cllr Paul Brant, Liverpool
Liverpool City Council is one of the founder members of the Co-operative Councils Network just launched by Ed Miliband in Rochdale Town Hall. The Network is a group of like-minded Labour Councils who want to progress the principles of mutualism and cooperation in our local areas.
The savage cuts being imposed on a city like Liverpool by the Tory-led Government mean that we need to find new ways of thinking and doing things. In North Liverpool, for example, a new partnership of housing associations, the council and residents groups (known as the ‘beautiful north’) are mutually co-operating to direct public spending to greater effect. Anti-social private tenants were identified by the resident groups and action was taken by the council and landlords. The local residents then recommended new tenants (often the family and friends of the local residents) as new tenants for the properties. The local private landlords agreed to waive the need for a deposit for these new tenants. This new arrangement is a win-win as it builds a more stable local area, rewards good behaviour and reduces the need to spend on anti social behaviour.
In another local area, local residents groups have worked with their local councillors and decided that a demolished school building site should be covered with topsoil and made available as a green space or allotments for the local community. The diversion of the environmental spend now reduces the need for long-term maintenance.
The traditional centralised way of planning and delivering services is for the authority-wide contracts or services to be decided remotely and with little reference to those in the local areas. This sharing of power by the local council with other stakeholders and residents achieves an outcome that is mutually beneficial to all.
The personalisation of budgets in social care will also empower significant numbers of residents. The creation of micro-mutuals of residents who share common needs or demands in the way they like to have services delivered (say Somali women) means they can collectively agree to bind together and procure their care needs in a collective. This increase in purchasing power means that they can ensure they services are tailored to their needs, and at lower cost.
The more traditional employee-owned co-operatives will also become more attractive to existing services in the council, as both a means of protecting terms and conditions for the staff, but also insulating the service from the threat of the new ‘right to challenge’ introduced by the government.
The coming years are going to be some of the most difficult for local councils in recent history. However I believe that the new network will provide an innovative way of councils sharing best practice and mechanisms for dealing with new challenges. Each council will face it’s own set of unique challenges, but we will achieve more together by the strength of these ideas than we would alone.
Cllr Paul Brant is Deputy Leader of Liverpool City Council