Thursday, 18 February 2010

Lambeth announces new co-operative model to protect services

Labour councillors in Lambeth have announced plans, detailed on the front page of today’s Guardian to create the first ever cooperatively run local council in Britain. The news comes in stark contrast to Conservative plans to create a so called ‘Easy-council’ in Barnet which would slash the amount of services provided to local residents along the lines of a low-cost airline. 

The idea of a ‘cooperative council’ draws on the values of fairness, accountability and responsibility that are at the heart of the modern Labour party. The model will be key to shaping a new settlement between the citizen and public services that will be necessary to protect frontline provision.

With the potential for widespread cuts to local government budgets of up to 20% expected over the next few years, Labour is taking action to protect services that matter to residents such as in health and education.

Labour's Leader in Lambeth, Cllr Steve Reed said "We can do that by empowering citizens and communities to take more responsibility for running some services themselves, freeing up resources to guarantee services for the most vulnerable."
Lambeth has already made a start toward becoming a cooperative council through a number of projects:
  • We are a national leader in transferring assets to the community, including: Raleigh Hall, Weir Link, Old Lilian Baylis School, Beaufoy Institute, the proposed Brixton Green Community Land Trust, Portuguese Community Centre
  • We are developing new community-led environmental projects, including Community Freshview, and Community Green Champions.
  • We are a national leader on personalising care budgets – this allocates the care budget to the user to spend as they see fit with appropriate guidance and advice.
  • Key services are delivered by not-for-profit social enterprises, such as Greenwich Leisure who run Lambeth’s leisure services.
  • We have the highest number of tenant-managed estates of any council – this is a co-operative form of management.
  • We are already home to Coin Street Community Builders – one of the country’s most high profile and successful co-ops. 
  • We recently opened the country’s only parent promoted secondary school, a community-led alternative to the academy model.

What other ideas could the cooperative council model include?
We will explore a range of ideas and ways of taking things forward.  These are not set in stone but may include:
  • An ‘active citizens’ dividend’ that could reward residents who are involved with organisations that help deliver community-based services with a council tax rebate.
  • Neighbourhood cooperatives – allowing residents in a given ward or neighbourhood to run local community facilities
  • Citizen-led services – allowing service users or local residents to hold a ballot on turning certain local services into local cooperatives, such as children’s centres or youth centres.
  • Supporting more housing cooperatives under residents’ control and ownership
  • How we break down the barriers with partner organisations to deliver more jointly commissioned services offering better value for money.

What happens next?
We are working on a consultation document that will go out to the council’s partners in March.  We will also set up a Citizens Commission to involve residents and service users in discussions about this new way of delivering public services.  The Commission will report back in April.