Cllr Chris Penberthy's address to the Coop Party Conference 2015

Cllr Chris Penberthy
Cabinet member for Cooperatives and Housing, Plymouth City Council; Vice Chair
Cooperative Councils Innovation Network

I'm proud to be a Labour and Cooperative Councillor in Plymouth's Labour and
Cooperative city council. We might be perceived to be a million miles from Westminster
but we're delivering not just talking about cooperation.

Across England, Scotland and Wales the network of 23 Cooperative Councils is seeking to
protect and improve public services. Each is committed to giving our local residents a
greater say in shaping the place they live in and the services they use. Doing with and not
doing to is central to our approach.
Sunderland has been working at a process of supporting the role of Councillors as
community leaders to give local residents access to decision making processes and
budgets. Stevenage has been giving control of assets to communities. You've just heard
about Lambeth's Youth Coop and what is happening in Norwich. Glasgow is working with
the Cooperative College on educating its staff team in the cooperative approach.
Edinburgh is the latest member to provide active support for community energy provision -
and we all need to fight the way government is seeking to kill community renewable
energy ownership.
In Plymouth some of the things we have done, in no particular order, include
• Supporting the development of our local credit unions which has led to their
membership grow by a third in 18 months
• Giving communities greater ownership of economic development in their patch
• Working closely with local social enterprises to become the country's first social
enterprise city and creating a £2.5 Social Enterprise Investment Fund
• Creating more than 100 new allotments and given local people a greater role in shaping
our parks and open spaces
• Launching an independent Fairness Commission and implementing its
If we can do this so can your council. But that's not all we have done and you, like
Plymouth, could also...
• Give communities control over the development of new controlled parking zones
• Fund new support for community groups and Timebanking in order to build community
capacity and social capital, a new approach to traditional CVS support
Found a 1000 Club which, in Plymouth, has in two years has recruited 1500 employers
as members who in turn have created over 3000 new jobs, apprenticeships and
meaningful work experience opportunities for young people
Work with partners to create an integrated adult health and social care budget and
provision without needing a devolution deal or an elected mayor - in Plymouth this is
worth over £460 million a year• Earmark a proportion of your CIL meaningful community spend to match fund
community led crowdfunding projects
• Support community energy projects - we have facilitated the development of the
Plymouth Energy Community and invested in its growth with a match funding grant and
loan contribution of over £1.5m with a potential further £3.75m currently under
• Work with school partners to improve school meals - Plymouth's CaterED is a city-wide
award winning school meals coop that has improved worker path and conditions as well
as provided over 1,700 free school meals over the summer holidays and are part of a
much bigger agenda to bring cooperative principles into the entire education system
• Improve consultation and engagement processes - we have undertaken a community
based development process for our new award winning Plymouth Plan which includes
our local sustainable development framework as well as statutory policies including
health and wellbeing, community safety, housing and child poverty - even if Ian Duncan
Smith thinks the latter is no longer needed
...and so much more.
Cooperative Councils are doing this because of political leadership from people like Steve
Reed, Lib Peck, Jim McMahon, Andrew Burns, Sharon Taylor, Chris Herries and my own
boss Tudor Evans. It is Cooperative Councillors who have been at the forefront of
developing thinking and putting it into action. And it is our cooperative values and
principles that underpin everything.
The Cooperative Councils Innovation Network is a Local Government Association special
interest group. Over the last few months we have been going through some major
changes. We have recently removed the RSA as our development partner. This is going to
give us the opportunity to do more with our cash - look out for more knowledge exchange,
member development, peer review, practical pilots and policy reviews. Our Values and
Principles Board will be taking a much more proactive approach - I would especially like to
thank not only the Coop Party, but also Coops UK and the Cooperative College for holding
the faith and working with us to take this forward.
As a member of the Coop Party - and one of our Councillors - I want to make sure that we
find ways that we can learn more, share more, influence more.
This morning Stella reminded us of our vulnerability. A number of CCIN members are in
minority control or are coalitions - elections in May could make a difference. In Plymouth in
9 months time the work we've been doing could come to an end. We can not, and we must
not, let this happen. The time for cooperative government is now - let's campaign together
to make it so.