• Lead Member Stevenage Borough Council
  • Participating Members Burntwood Town Council, North Hertfordshire District Council, Stevenage Borough Council, Sunderland City Council
  • Year 2022
  • Status Policy Labs

Principles met

  • We will develop systems that enable citizens to be equal partners in designing and commissioning public services and in determining the use of public resources.
  • We will explore ways for councils to act as a platform for helping the community to contribute to local outcomes, and to re-think the role of councillors as community connectors, brokers and leaders.
  • 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.
  • As a membership organisation, we will make this statement of our principles operational by: • Co-operation among members: Our members work together to help each other implement our values, sharing experiences and learning. • Openness of membership: Full, Associate and Affiliate Membership is open to any qualifying Council, organisation or individual who shares our values and is committed to putting them into action. • Co-production of the Network’s work: Members help shape the Network’s work programme and the content of events and written products. • Action-focused: The network is a vehicle for helping councils translate co-operative values and principles into policy and practice. •Membership-based: The network is majority funded by modest membership subscriptions from its member Councils, Associates and Affiliates. •Non-party-political: Members share the belief that working co-operatively within and across communities holds the key to tackling today’s challenges.

About the project

Executive Summary

The partner councils: Burntwood Town Council, North Herts District Council, Stevenage Borough Council and Sunderland City Council, have been working together throughout the policy lab to demonstrate how co-operative councils can embed neighbourhood working to deliver better outcomes and better value for money, through a co-operative model of organisation and delivery at a local level. All four councils differ in their size, scope and resources and have been using the term of the policy lab to design and develop better ways of working co-operatively within their communities.

Burntwood Town Council is the smallest of the partners with a population of 26,000. Being a town council they have more limited capacity for direct delivery work. This has built a focus on supporting the development of innovative community groups and organisations to provide services to the people of Burntwood. Through this co-operative model, the council has ensured that community groups and services are maintained and that its limited resources are used effectively across the Town.

North Herts District Council covers a large area of Hertfordshire including rural and urban areas with an overall population of 134,000. Throughout the Covid pandemic, North Herts was able to work with its community partners specialising in Food Support, to design and develop a food network able to provide support and coverage across the district. This in turn meant that North Herts was able to ensure equity of access to support organisations for all of its communities.

Stevenage Borough Council caters to a population of roughly 87,000. The Co-operative Neighbourhood Programme adopted by SBC has divided the town into six Co-operative Neighbourhood areas, with dedicated ward councillors and officers forming a working group that consults, engages and delivers within the locality. This model has benefited the respective communities through enabling involvement, ownership and direction from residents and community stakeholders.

Sunderland City Council covers a large area with a population of 277,000. The development of “let’s talk” community events and engagement, highlighted the need for action within the Elemore area of Sunderland. This centred on the re-development of an abandoned golf course that, through re-wilding, is now an important environmental asset within the area. Local concerns over the use of the area for anti-social behaviour, had led to innovative ideas around turning it into a community park with opportunity to develop community wealth building programmes.

This report provides a summary of the co-operative models used by the partners as contained within the Policy Lab learning video.