Andy Burnham and cover of the 'A Co-operative Manchester' report
Making progress on his previous promise to make Greater Manchester “the most co-operative region in the UK” Andy Burnham releases the report to turn that plan into a reality.

Mayor Andy Burnham announced plans to turn Greater Manchester (GM) into a designated ‘Co-operative Zone’, with dedicated resources to offer business advice and support for new and existing co-ops in the city-region. The plan was revealed at the launch of a report entitled ‘A Co-operative Greater Manchester’ at Federation House in Manchester on Monday.

The report is the result of Burnham’s involvement with the Co-operative Commission, which began in February 2019 to act as “a driver for developing co-operative activity across the city-region and to explore how co-operative methods can help to solve existing issues facing the city-region.”

The Commission is chaired by Cllr Allen Brett and vice-chaired by GMCA Portfolio Lead and Deputy Portfolio Lead for Community, Voluntary and Co-operatives Cllr Angelika Stogia. It gathered evidence from groups and individuals with experience of running, setting up or trying to set up co-operatives across four key areas: Housing, Transport, Digital and Business.

‘A Co-operative Greater Manchester’ sets out 42 policy recommendations across these four areas, including that Greater Manchester become a Co-operative Zone with a dedicated resource to offer business advice and support for both existing co-operatives and those who wish to start or convert to a co-operative approach.

Greater Manchester is the birthplace of the co-operative movement of today, with the establishment of The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844. Yesterday’s event paid tribute to that fact with a poem from Manchester poet Tony Walsh which spoke of “love” as the Rochdale Pioneers’ “greatest dividend.”

In the area of Housing, the report recommends that “Greater Manchester should set up a Greater Manchester Community Housing Hub to address a gap in the housing market and enable the establishment of co-operative and community-led housing projects” and that local housing strategies should incentivise co-operative housing models.

For transport, the report advises that GM should “carry out a place-based pilot programme for the development of community-owned ‘total transport’ business models” and that “community transport link up with shared modes and the mainstream network as part of the ongoing work around bus reform.” One recommendation suggests the development of a co-operative taxi app for Greater Manchester.

Read: Burnham says GM needs a ‘new economy’ and promises funding for co-operative development

Andy Burnham, speaking at Monday’s launch, appeared keen to move into the implementation of the recommendations set out in the report. Describing the report as a “blueprint….that we can now use to make good that vision of Greater Manchester driving the new economy in the 21st century,” he went on to say:

“I accept all 42 recommendations made in the report and I’d like to keep the commission on to now deliver an implementation plan, in order to make a reality of these recommendations.”

Burnham noted precarious and substandard housing, problems in our social care system and the recent fire in a student accommodation building in Bolton as examples of market failure in Greater Manchester, signalling a need to move towards a “future economy of the 21st century”, using the ‘A Co-operative Greater Manchester’ report as a roadmap to make this new economy a reality.

Alice Toomer-McAlpine

The full report and more information about the commission and co-operatives in Greater Manchester can be found here.

Feature image: James Monaghan and GM Co-operative Commission.

This article is part of the ‘Co-operative Manchester‘ series The Meteor will be publishing over the next few months. Exploring the past present and future of co-ops in the city

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  • Co-founder and Co-editor of The Meteor, Alice is a community worker and journalist from Manchester who works across a range of roles including youth work, community organising, video production and creative documentation of non-profit projects. Alice is interested in how the stories we create and share shape the world we live in, and how communities can take ownership of their stories and build trust with local independent media to build collective power.

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