As previously reported and welcomed on this blog, the government is giving profile co-operative ideals a way never before considered, as argued in this piece in the Guardian.
It’s a big idea, whose time has clearly come, and I endorse it wholeheartedly. However, I was concerned by the tone of the article, which talked about “pumping resources” and “financial support” for Co-operatives.
Whoa, there. That, for me, is not what Co-ops are all about and I’m sure it’s not what they themselves are suggesting. The proud tradition of Co-ops is to reinvest profits: and to prioritise other important outcomes like employment, quality and fairness. But it’s not to take handouts from government. Co-ops need to be competitive, for the obvious reason that they compete directly in the marketplace with companies which are not co-ops. If they don’t, they and the movement die – it’s a basic principle of the co-operative world.
But it’s not about state subsidies, like Tony Benn did briefly with Triumph Meridian in the 70s – that just creates wrong incentives and ultimately harms the fine name of co-operatives. What we need is proper legislation which creates a level playing field for Co-ops, a process started by the snappily-titled Co-operative & Community Benefit Societies & Credit Unions Bill currently going through Parliament.
And that won’t cost the government a penny in ongoing support, will protect Co-ops’ good name with their supporter base (which is far wider than just the Labour Party), and maintain their proud tradition of standing on their own two feet.
Now that's co-operation.