Sarah Church on why Co-operatives are good for Swindon

Co-op Fortnight is underway and this week Sarah attended two local events to celebrate the opportunities that co-operatives offer.

Co-operators are a core part of the Labour movement. Ever since the days of the Rochdale Pioneers, co-operative working to achieve more together than alone, has been a way for those with little wealth to add up to more than the sum of their parts.

Modern co-operatives are very common in Europe and the USA and we have some good examples in this country, such as your local Co-op, and the mutual banking sector. Co-operation is about clubbing together and local wealth building, and this is a really key vision for Swindon, where needs should be met through locally sourced solutions, whether those needs be for housing, shopping, energy or banking. Local wealth building stimulates local economies and has been successful in towns like Preston, and could be a really good news story for Swindon.

On Friday 28th June, Sarah was invited by Midcounties Cooperatives and Cooperative Futures to attend the Co-operate Swindon! event. The event explored the benefits of starting up a co-operative business and the benefits to the local economy of co-operatives. There is already a date in the diary for a follow up meeting as the potential for co-ops in Swindon is huge!

On Saturday 29th June, the Swindon Co-operative Party hosted a Housing Conference- ‘What is the future of Housing?’- with guest speaker Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Carl Taylor, Director at Redditch Coop Homes, and Councillor Emma Bushell, Labour’s spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness at Swindon Borough Council.

The debate, chaired by Patrick Herring, about how co-operation can address the housing crisis in Swindon was particularly useful- by helping groups of people such as private renters come together, we will be able to start making the changes we need to see in the precarious and expensive private rental sector for example. There were some inspiring examples from Redditch where individual renters were able to design their own homes in new developments for accessibility, and set rents that were affordable and met local community needs.

The Swindon Co-operative Party has set up a working group with Emma to take forward how we can employ practical solutions to some of the housing problems in Swindon.