Cooperative Economy

Posted: Saturday, 14 November 2009 by Chris Hyland in Labels: , ,

Recently I've had to fill in an application form which which involved researching Green Party policy on cooperatives. Luckily Jim had a post on his blog from Matt Sellwood which has some great policy quotes, particularly this:

WR600 A Green economy must be a more mutual economy, in which industries and enterprises which are run by and for those who depend on them and are affected by them play a significant role in the economy. We believe that the international co-operative principles provide the benchmark for such businesses. This means that the Green Party must enable both the creation of new mutuals and the greater involvement of stakeholders other than investors in existing businesses.

At the last conference in Hove we added more policies to our manifesto that start to address how this might be achieved, which can be found here.

Unsurprisingly the other parties have little or nothing in their manifestos about cooperatives. The only exception obviously is the cooperative party, the political wing of the cooperative movement. The coop party is currently affiliated to the Labour Party, and members elected to parliament are elected as Labour-Coop MPs; the most common of which is the current Children, Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls.

Apart from trumpeting the rather tepid Co-operative & Community Benefit Societies & Credit Unions Bill, the party also has a full manifesto for the next general election. I can't seem to find their manifesto for the last election so we can't compare how many of those policies have since been enacted by the government, but we can look at their current policies to see which party might be the most anxious to put them into practice. Below are some of the main points in the coop party manifesto with a couple of Green party policies interspersed in quotes for good measure.

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  • Supporting co-operative and mutual enterprise – Co-operative and mutual differ from their PLC competitors in one crucial respect; they exist to provide a service for their members rather than to generate profits for external shareholders. As a key part of the plurality of the UK economy, the Government should ensure that every assistance is given to the preservation and creation of co-operative and mutual businesses.

    A Green economy must be a more mutual economy, in which industries and enterprises which are run by and for those who depend on them and are affected by them play a significant role in the economy.

    We favour the development of more cooperative and mutual economic enterprises, whether worker cooperatives owned and controlled by their workers, or consumer cooperatives, owned and controlled by their customers, including mutual financial institutions like building societies and mutual insurers, and sporting clubs owned by their supporters.

  • Remutualisation – The financial crisis has come at a serious cost to everyone in the UK; whose savings have been risked, whose taxes may have to rise and whose livelihoods are threatened by the recession that has followed. It is vital that we learn from our mistakes and build more stable foundations for our financial sector in the future. That is why we believe all fully nationalised banks should be converted into mutuals, as this is the best solution for ensuring a stable, long-term future for these companies, and making sure that the risk taken by taxpayers will deliver for consumers.

    The retention of RBS, Lloyds/HBOS, B&B and Northern Rock in permanent and effective public ownership and their conversion into a chain of smaller, more responsive and democratically controlled local banks.

    The active development and promotion of alternative vehicles for the provision of credit, including publicly owned and accountable banks, local community banks, credit unions, building societies and other mutuals.

  • Land Reform – As we seek to bring stability to the financial system, it is only right that we aim to do the same for the property markets. A key policy concern for the future has to be to keep growth in house prices consistent with other parts of the economy. We should use taxation to change incentives within the property market, ensuring that we incentivise the productive use of land rather than expected capital gains in an upward market.

    The Green Party believes that the unearned benefits from land-use should be shared amongst the community, and that the community should collect such unearned benefits through a system of Land Value Taxation. Revenues raised by Land Value Taxation would be in substitution of, and not in addition to, other revenues.

  • Investing in a co-operative future –Investment needs to be not only focused on what it can generate for individuals but also what it could provide for the community. The self-help model of funding can not only offer a safe and robust investment for individuals, but also provide us with services that can collectively improve our lives.

    We would introduce a cooperative development fund operating mainly through local authorities to provide initial capital on a matched funding basis for new cooperatives in the financial and other sectors.

  • Public Infrastructure – At a time when public sector borrowing remains high and private sector capacity to invest remains limited, we should explore the creation of new mutual organisations to build tomorrow’s infrastructure.

    The regeneration and restructuring of our public transport system, including the return to public ownership of the railways and democratic public control of local and regional bus services, including the reintroduction of municipal and other commonly owned services.

    The Green Party has also proposed cooperatives as a solution to our renewable energy infrastructure needs such as in the case of Vestas.

  • An economy in all of our interests – For the foreseeable future, it is likely that most significant enterprises will continue to be owned by shareholders. Building a private sector more in tune with co-operative values is necessary if we are to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Through reconnecting our firms with all of their stakeholders and society we can transform the nature of business in this country – building an economy that acts in all of our interests.

    The Green Party is committed to workplace democracy, whereby undertakings shall be managed co-operatively through the involvement of those who work in them and the communities they serve.

    We will gradually establish legal ways for companies to be transformed into mutual organisations, such as consumer or worker cooperatives in specified circumstances if a sufficient majority of the relevant workers or customers agree.

  • From speculation to long term investment – The speculative nature of investment within the global economy rewards short term decision making and reduces the accountability of business to its owners, including the majority of ordinary citizens through their pensions. To help ensure our future economic stability, we should campaign for the global introduction of taxes on capital transfers in the international stock, credit derivative and currency markets through agreement at the G20 group of nations and the UN.

    The Green Party demands urgent measures against speculation and control of unregulated finances. We ask for:

    1. A tax on financial transactions when these involve a currency exchange operation (Tobin tax) and to set up a 'Tobin Eurozone'.
    2. To dismantle tax havens.
    3. To suspend immediately the initiatives of the EU governments in favour of capitalisation pensions.
    4. To establish a legal framework for companies and businesses accountability on environmental and social responsibilities and performance.
    5. The reform of the World Trade Organisation.

  • Trade Justice – We believe that trade is the best tool in the fight against global poverty.
    Two areas are key to rebalancing the global trading system: fair trade and trade justice.

    A General Agreement on Sustainable Trade, under which fair trade rules (where producers are guaranteed a reasonable price for their products before planting, and a portion of the payment is set aside for community development) would become a requisite for international trade and local supply of goods would be preferred, should replace the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). A World Localisation Organisation should replace the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

  • Transferring Power to Communities – Local Government should do much more to deliver power and ownership of local services to the communities that depend on them. We believe that community-based and new mutual organisations have a vital role to play in running local services, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, engaging young people and regenerating run-down neighbourhoods.

    All decision-making and action throughout all levels of government, including international government, shall be governed by the principle of subsidiarity: namely that nothing should be done centrally if it can be done equally well, or better, locally.

    The aim should be to move towards structures which better reflect the ecology of the land and the character of local communities, and which enable better democratic decision-making and the effective provision of public services. Any significant proposed changes to such structures would be subject to a referendum of all residents affected.

  • Delivering High-Quality Affordable Housing – The tectonic shift that has occurred in the global financial markets means that the housing landscape in the UK will never be the same again. One result will be that many thousands of UK households will be caught in the gap between affordable rent and home ownership. The ‘New Foundations’ model is a new form of intermediate home ownership that can ensure these new and emerging households have access to a decent home that they can afford, and allows them to accumulate a financial stake.

    Funding for a major programme of social housing construction and refurbishment by local authorities, housing cooperatives and housing associations in order to respond to the aspirations of the four million families currently on housing waiting lists.

    Powers to enable families in mortgage arrears to transfer the tenure of their homes to social tenancies

The point is the New Labour government are not going to get anywhere near the cooperative party manifesto in terms of policy if they manage win a fourth term. As with the mini-manifesto published by Compass recently (Greens 9, Labour 0) Left Labour groups are beginning to sound more and more like the Green Party in tone and in policy. While it's apparently too much to ask that they break association with the party that stands for everything they are against: it's important we point out to them and their supporters which party actually agrees with their policies. Especially as more of them publish manifestos in the run up to the election.

Were looking at you LRC.