End of year Q&A: Louise Gittins, chair, CCIN
- January 2024
Many of you will know by now that I am absolutely honoured and delighted to have been nominated by Sir Keir Starmer to enter the House of Lords as a working Labour and Cooperative Peer. I take up my seat at the end of October. That means I shall be stepping down as Leader at Stevenage at the end of December, which means I shall no longer be eligible to be Chair of the Cooperative Councils’ Innovation Network. Arrangements are being made to appoint a new Chair.
Chair of CCIN
Leader Stevenage Borough Council
I couldn’t be prouder of how our network has developed over the last ten years since it was founded by Steve Reed MP, Jim McMahon MP and me. We wanted to demonstrate the power of cooperation in action in our councils and communities and to share the unique energy that cooperation brings with our fellow councillors and their councils.
Ten years later, we could never have imagined the strength and innovation that characterises our network today. With a huge membership of 47 councils from the largest council in Europe, Birmingham City Council and councils representing our other major UK cities to our partners in town, parish and community councils who are developing best cooperative practices in the heart of their communities. We are also fortunate to have a wide range of affiliate members who share our values and support our work.
From the three councils that started our network, we now cover populations totalling 9.8m people and have combined budgets of £17bn.
We have developed ground-breaking cooperative policy documents on topics as diverse as tackling climate change, supporting our communities through Covid, cooperative housing and cooperation in care services. And when we attend conferences & exhibitions, our case study books still disappear from our stand like hotcakes!
Our cooperative values and principles stay clear and strong, supported by our Values and Principles Board with membership from across the cooperative movement. Thank you to all our dedicated V&P members. In recent years we have developed a clear direction for the network through our Executive Oversight Committee, including using our membership subscriptions to fund policy labs and prototypes, giving our councils the space to innovate without putting scarce Council funds at risk.
It was the greatest pleasure when we exhibited at the Labour Party Conference in September to welcome Hackney, Newham and Trafford as new council members and Stoke Labour Group as new Associate members. As we continue to develop and share our cooperative practice, our members were delighted this year to attend our study visit to Mondragon in the Basque Country, Spain, the largest worker cooperative in the world, and a group of our council leaders are actively working on community wealth building and what is needed to grow cooperative economies across the UK.
As we face the twin challenges of Covid recovery and the cost-of-living crisis, our members and their councils are reclaiming the traditions of community action, community engagement, and civic empowerment that can transform communities.
Thank you to all those who have contributed to our network over our ten years with commitment, energy and passion for our values. I will no longer be your Chair, but I shall remain your incredibly proud founder and continue to be inspired by what our network achieves.
Here’s to the next ten years of cooperation in action!
Baroness Taylor of Stevenage