Lambeth Council launches as a co-op
Lambeth Council relaunched itself as a co-operative council last week in a bid to cut costs and save services.
The London borough, which first announced its plans a year ago, will be focusing on a radical overhaul of its youth services under the changes, which it officially launched on Friday at an event with new shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell and Maurice Glassman, Ed Milliband’s new policy guru on the alternative to the Big Society.
The model will give local people a say on where funding for youth services is spent, the chance to set up new organisations and run their own services, and a new level of transparency, according to the council.
The council aims to put all commissioning of universal youth services into the hands of the community, which can choose to fund existing or start up organisations, community groups, voluntary organisations and social enterprises. It claims its role will be a ‘supervisory and supportive’ one.
The council hopes the move will make services more effective and targeted, save or introduce new services in an area at risk as councils do not have a statutory duty to fund them, and reduce bureaucracy.
Its initiatives are outlined in a new report entitled The Co-operative Council, Sharing power: a new settlement between citizens and the state, which can be downloaded below.
Council leader Steve Reed called the move to go co-operative ‘the most radical change to providing services ever attempted in local government’.
‘If residents or existing voluntary groups opt to run a service, the council will provide residents with the training and knowledge they need, along with initial funding to get them started,’ he said.
‘We will monitor their progress, make sure they are meeting their objectives and help the service to be sustainable.’
Reed added that Lambeth’s re-modelling exercise would ‘shape the future of local government’.
‘The potential to save money is important in the face of the huge government cuts but that is not the essence of the cooperative approach,’ he said.
‘Our research tells us that Lambeth is willing to step up; it’s our duty to help that happen.’
To incentivise local people to get involved, they will get discounts on local council services and in local shops; volunteers would get training and there would be council support for new community consultation groups. Finance schemes would also be set up, funded by philanthropic and commercial organisations, to fund new projects.
The launch was welcomed by social enterprise supporters, including Social Enterprise London and think-tank Respublica. It also met the approval of those in the social enterprise, co-op and local government sectors operating on social networking platforms such as Twitter. Search #lambethcoop for more.