Liam Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Mayor of the West Midlands, has launched a Co-op Taskforce to identify far-reaching policies to unleash the potential of the West Midlands while addressing some of the most pressing social challenges in the region.
The Taskforce will be led by Liam himself with the support of Preet Gill MP, Labour & Co-operative MP for Birmingham Edgbaston and the vice-chair of the Co-op Parliamentary Group; Councillor Olivia Blake from Wolverhampton who is also a director of Revolver Coffee Co-operative and, Tony Kennedy, Chair of the Birmingham, Solihull and Tamworth Co-op Party. It will also bring together leaders in Co-operative businesses, organisations and councils in the West Midlands.
Liam Byrne said: “Co-operation is at the heart of how we will rebuild our region. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of so many communities and services and as we recover from this crisis, we can’t return to the way things were. We must build back better, and which tackles the root causes of so many social problems in the region.
“Co-ops help retain money locally, people have a stake in success, and in these difficult times ahead we need to make sure every pound works as hard as possible. Co-ops create a local dividend which we need here.”
The Taskforce will focus on three main areas:
- Community Wealth Building including how can money can be spent and retained locally through a public sector purchasing power and contracts let with local firms to help the economies of the West Midlands and how can the economy grow in a way which helps the greatest number of people while producing opportunities for Co-operatives to thrive - evidence shows that Co-ops are more resilient, and more wealth is retained locally.
- Food Justice and championing the right to food ensuring that no child ever goes hungry and address the growing levels of food poverty in the West Midlands - the vital role of local food Co-ops and networks to support local people has been seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Energy - becoming the first carbon-neutral region in the UK exploring the use of municipal and community energy schemes to save energy costs and to make the West Midlands the Green Heart of England.
The Taskforce will also look at Co-operative examples in the West Midlands and how Co-ops can be scaled across the region.
Preet Gill MP added: “We will only be limited by our ambition for the region. The West Midlands could become the powerhouse of Co-operation and our Co-operative values can end up right at the heart of the policy agenda of the next Mayor of the West Midlands. We’ve seen how importance Co-operation has been as communities have helped each other during the COVID crisis. At the same time, Co-operative policies will create jobs, reduce inequality and food poverty and kick-start the green industrial revolution.”
Welcoming the involvement of the Co-operative Party, General Secretary Joe Fortune said: “This is a hugely exciting piece of work for our Party to be involved in. This ambitious project will chart a course for a radical new future for the West Midlands and its economy. When properly embraced co-operative action, values and principles have vast potential to bring both social and economic change. We look forward to working to unlock that potential.”
Submissions to the taskforce can be made by going to https://party.coop/west-midlands-co-operative-taskforce/