Poverty, inequality, disenfranchisement, disempowerment, immigration, demographic changes, climate change. Issues you’ll hear about across the country, and indeed the world. Just ask any of the city leaders we hosted in Bristol last year at the Global Parliament of Mayors.
It’s clear that the transformational change we need cannot come from national governments alone. Indeed, the current Conservative government is doing nothing but make these issues worse, leaving local government and ordinary citizens to pick up the pieces.
Politics that works for the good of everyone must be the answer. This is something that the co-operative movement has been espousing for decades.
To the uninitiated, ‘co-op’ is likely to mean the food shops and funeral directors. But that is just one business. There are thousands of co-operatives in the UK, and Bristol is no exception. We have a co-op energy generator, a co-op gym, a co-op newspaper and a co-op credit union, to name a few.
But ‘co-operative’ means much more than business. It’s about ideals and principles that champion the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. I am proud that the Labour administration of Bristol City Council, led by mayor Marvin Rees, is putting these values into practice.
The One City Approach has brought together public, private and third sector partners across Bristol to harness our collective power and influence. No single organisation has the power to make all of the change we need, and only by co-operating together can we achieve our goals.
Together the partners have launched the One City Plan, an ambitious vision of how we want Bristol to be in 2050, with a road map to get there.
Building more homes is a top priority. Mayor Rees has pledged that, by 2020, Bristol will be building 2,000 homes a year including 800 affordable. We’re on track to exceed that ambitious target, which includes housing co-ops and shared ownership schemes as an important part of the solution.
And, not content with existing models of delivering homes, the Labour council and other city partners have collaborated with the Bristol Housing Festival to offer the city as a laboratory for housing innovation testing – examining ground-breaking solutions in real-world scenarios.
We’re also making sure co-operative values are at the heart of the council itself. We’re the only core city with a pay ratio lower than ten to one for council staff, and we’ve implemented the real living wage.
We’re also one of the best ranked organisations in the city for equal pay, and have amongst the highest levels of black and minority ethnic representation in the local public sector.
Furthermore, we’re working to improve how the council procures goods and services. We’ve refreshed the council’s social value policy, increased the weighting given to social value in procurement and made changes to the council’s procurement regulations to break up contracts amongst smaller, local providers and charities. Additionally, Bristol was one of the first cities to sign up to the Co-operative Party’s national charter against modern slavery.
Working together, sharing ideas, co-investing time and money in collaboration – these are key to meeting our shared ambitions for the city. Labour in Bristol is building on our progress to date to develop innovative new ideas, and is using organisations such as the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network to share best practice (yet another manifesto promise kept). Working together, in the co-operative way, we will continue to strive towards a better Bristol.
Tom Brook is the Labour Group’s co-op convenor and councillor for Bishopton and Ashley Down ward.