Plunkett Policy Perspectives – March 2014

Spotlight on co-operatives

Recent events at the Co-operative Group have been the focus of attention in the co-operative movement.  Despite this news, the other 6,000 co-operatives in the UK continue as normal serving their members.  We shouldn’t forget despite recent events how the co-operative economy has continually outstripped the wider economy since 2007 and good co-operative news happens on a daily basis!

At Plunkett we’re proud to work with so many communities setting up and running co-operatives of different forms.  In the past few weeks we’ve seen community shops and co-operative pubs opening, communities celebrating successful community share issues and others preparing to open their new co-op.  Plunkett has recently completed our annual survey of community shops, the findings of which will be launched during Community Shops Fortnight (14 – 29 June).  We’ve also completed the first ever survey of the growing co-operative pub movement.  We’ll be launching the findings during Camra’s Community Pub Month in April.

The Welsh Government published their Report of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission late last month which Plunkett contributed to.  It was great to see Plunkett’s work, particularly which focused on saving shops and pubs as co-operatives, recognised alongside our expertise on community share issues.

Rural development plans being shaped

Really important decisions are being finalised on the delivery of European rural development funding across the UK, Ireland and Europe.  See Defra’s response to their Community Agricultural Policy consultation for example.  Plunkett has been busy responding to consultations and calls for evidence and more or less we’ve said at each point:

  • Community-owned and controlled enterprises have grown significantly in importance in rural communities as a way of responding to the challenges communities face.  Community Led Local Development (an EU term..) is critical for supporting this development.
  • Business grants and training and skills development needs to be available for and open to the needs of community-owned enterprises operating and setting up in rural areas.
  • Opportunities provided by the EU framework to support smaller farm business and new younger farmer are much needed and should be taken.
  • There is a significant need to support farm businesses to better use and understand how co-operatives can improve their livelihoods.

Plunkett worked with the Defra Social Enterprise Strategic Partnership and a small number of Local Enterprise Partnerships in England to explore the potential for LEPs to support the development of rural social enterprises to help deliver their objectives.  The findings of the report provided a very clear view that social enterprises have significant potential to both contribute towards job creation and growth whilst also delivering on key challenges LEPs have been tasked with, such as social inclusion.  Read the short report here.

If you care about these things and still have the opportunity, make your voice heard either directly or if you’re a Plunkett member, through us.

Growing Livelihoods

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food Olivier de Shutter published his final report on the right to food this month.  His report says that the global food system is failing because it’s making people in rich countries ill through bad diets while over 800m people go without food each day.  His proposals include calling for the end to public subsidies favouring ever larger entities in the food system whether these are farms, processors or retailers.  He recommended rebuilding local food systems through targeted support for smaller farms and the development of the infrastructure required to serve local markets.

At Plunkett we’ve been involved in this type of work for much our 95 years, whether this is through helping smaller farms to work together to improve livelihoods through co-operatives or through supporting communities to save and build local food systems through our support for community-owned shops, community food enterprises and local food systems.

It was timely then that Plunkett ran a Growing Livelihoods roundtable discussion during the month with long term collaborators the Carnegie UK Trust and the LSA Charitable Trust that focused on exploring how smaller scale food growing using co-operative approaches can provide good livelihoods for people.

At the meeting we were able to talk about the pioneering work of the Land Settlement Association, a pioneering scheme set up in 1934 that did just that and it is something Plunkett is proud to have been involved in establishing.  Keep an eye out for how this project develops over coming months.  Find out more about Growing Livelihoods here.

I hope you have a good month ahead.

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