1  Introduction (continued)

  (1.3)  Where does the Council fit in?

Co-ops are about self help, self reliance and independence.  By definition, they are member-based democratically controlled organisations.  To be sustainable, they must provide their members with an economic benefit or fulfil a genuine social need.  As grass roots organisations, they can only be created from the bottom up.  No government whether national or local can create co-ops.  Only the individual members can do that.  But the Government can help by ensuring that the legislative and regulatory framework in which co-ops operate is supportive not restrictive.  At local level, the Council can act as a facilitator and also provide short term grants or loans.  The Council can help to bring like-minded people together and through its information system ensure that people are made aware of the potential opportunities for mutual co-operation.  As far as grants are concerned, these should be confined to covering the cost of start up: i.e. to pay for advertising, hall hire, office equipment, stationery and postage.  Co-ops should aim to be economically self-supporting as soon as possible.  Once established, financial support should take the form of loans not grants.  Councils should be prepared to use the services provided by co-ops but only where they comply with Best Value standards.  These caveats apart, there are many opportunities for Barnet Council to help in the development of the social economy in the Borough.  These are outlined below.

2  Urban regeneration and employment.

(2.1)  In our view, the Council should appoint a Co-operative Development Officer within the Economic Development Department with the task of developing community enterprises and the social economy in general.  Several local authorities have also established CDAs (Co-operative Development Agencies) for this purpose.  These agencies also act as a channel for community re-investment funds and as a mechanism for creating local multi-stakeholder partnerships.  We recommend that the Council considers the establishment of a Barnet Co-operative Development Agency.

As Barnet has a very large number of small businesses, this sector is very important as far as employment is concerned.  It is likely that small businesses will be the main generators of new jobs in the future.  Whilst most of the growth is likely to be in the private sector, we believe that it is also important for the Council to stimulate community-based employment initiatives including assisting employee-owned firms to get started.  As well as providing much-needed employment, these organisations can assist in capacity-building in socially excluded areas and make a positive contribution to the renewal of the social fabric.

Recommendation.

      Council should appoint a Co-operative Development Officer.

      Council should consider the setting up of a Barnet Co-operative Development Agency.

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