Principles met

  • We will promote community-based approaches to economic development that focus on supporting the creation of jobs, social enterprises and other businesses and providing an environment for co-operative and mutual enterprises to thrive.
  • We will embrace innovation in how we work with local communities to drive positive change.
  • We will capture and ‘expand’ the experience and learning from individual projects and approaches in order to encourage broader application of co-operative principles within individual member Councils and across the Network.
  • We will support the development of a framework and criteria for social value, giving substance to the concept and supporting Councils with the tools to ensure better local social and economic outcomes.
  • In exploring new ways of meeting the priority needs of our communities we will encourage models, such as co-operatives and mutuals, which give greater influence and voice to staff and users. in designing and commissioning public services and in determining the use of public resources.

In September 2023 Birmingham City Council was forced to make a momentous decision. The largest local authority in Europe declared itself unable to balance its budget and issued a Section 114 Notice. The council’s financial crisis is part of the wider pressure on local authorities, through rapidly increasing service demand combined with long-term underfunding and the recent spike in inflation. But it was made worse by mistakes made in Birmingham, resulting in significant potential liabilities for equal pay claims and costs to put right a failed IT system.

The crisis meant that Birmingham had to make savings of £300m over two years. The council also applied for £1.2bn Emergency Financial Support from the government. This comes in the form of “capitalisation” permission, giving the council the ability to sell capital assets and convert the proceeds into revenue funding. This has led to a wholesale review of property assets.

Inevitably, the sheer scale of these cuts will impact on community services and facilities that are vital to local neighbourhoods across the city. In response, the local co-operative movement, spearheaded by Co-operatives West Midlands, established the Save Birmingham campaign.

Bringing together a range of partners, it aims to give residents the ability and resources to protect and improve the community spaces and services they care about. The partnership includes national organisations that are experts in providing advice and support to communities, including Co-operatives UK, Plunkett Foundation, Locality and Power to Change. Local partners include Birmingham Community Matters, Birmingham Voluntary Services Council and Birmingham Open Spaces Forum. Funding has been primarily provided by the local co-operatives and charitable funder Barrow Cadbury Trust, as well as small donations from residents.

The launch of the Save Birmingham campaign

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