Brits Are Spot-On In Expanding Co-op Model

Don’t let the food fool you, Britain has some strong points too.


Leader of the conservative Labor Party and potential Prime Minister David Cameron has been painting a big picture for the future of co-operatives in Britain. According to recent public statements, Cameron’s plan not only involves a new level of public scrutiny and transparency for government contracts but also may one day give control of certain public sector industries to employees and the communities that support them.

In a February article in The Economist, Cameron expressed his desire to see not just schools but hospitals and other tax-funded industries under community control. These industries would have to meet regulated standards, but the administrative control and surpluses would belong to the people whose daily efforts were tantamount to each industry’s success.

Credit unions have been following this model for some time, and there is no doubt other industries could benefit from a not-for-profit environment that puts community members in control.

“If social workers or jobcentre staff want to join together in co-operatives to run their services, we will encourage them,” Cameron advised in a printed address to readers of The Guardian.

The ideas Cameron outlined are becoming common in countries such as Spain and Sweden, where co-operative schools are commonplace. The potential for growth into other sectors is unlimited.

Cameron first revealed aspects of his “Conservative Co-Op Movement” in 2007. Three years later, with an impending election and the Labour party rallying around claims that it, too, supports co-op formation, it will be interesting to see how the winning party puts these ideas into action following the election.


April 29, 2010

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