21 May 2010

Lambeth Labour to publish cooperative council proposals

Lambeth Council is launching detailed proposals that will see the South London authority become Britain’s first-ever cooperative council.

Lambeth’s cooperative council model – first trailed in the national media in February 2010, months before David Cameron announced his Big Society proposals – will see residents take on a bigger role in running and shaping local services.


Lambeth's model contrasts with the Tory ‘EasyCouncil’ model in the London Borough of Barnet that aims to create two-tier services with substandard services for the majority and better options available only to those wealthy enough to pay for them. While there are some similarities with the coalition Government’s Big Society proposals, Labour’s model in Lambeth takes a more tCowley Estate tmo signhorough-going approach applying the cooperative values of fairness, accountability and responsibility across a broad range of services. It is built on four years experience trialling the approach in specific services in Lambeth.

Lambeth’s Labour leader, Councillor Steve Reed, will publish detailed proposals on Wednesday 26 May at the same time as the council sets up a Citizens’ Commission to consult local people on the proposals. The Commission will identify new services where the cooperative model can be piloted and will explore how the approach can be rolled out across further service areas later this year. The Commission will also explore how an ‘active citizens dividend’ could be paid to reward people who get involved in running local services, possibly in the form of a council-tax discount.

Lambeth has led the country in exploring the cooperative approach to service delivery in recent years. The council has more tenant-managed housing estates than any other borough and is transferring more assets to community control than any other council. Notable examples include Raleigh Hall in Brixton which is set to become the country’s first National Black Heritage Centre; the Weir Link children’s centre in Balham which is a service run by residents in a building built by the community; and the Old Lilian Baylis community sports hub operating out of a disused secondary school in Vauxhall that has won praise from leading politicians of all parties as well as international sports heroes like Usain Bolt and Michael Jordan.

Other community-led services already succeeding in Lambeth include 2XL, a peer mentoring programme that has dramatically cut youth reoffending levels on tough inner-city estates, the country’s first parent-promoted secondary school in West Norwood, and Community Freshview, an environmental programme that sees local people given tools and support to transform derelict or overgrown wasteland into community gardens or public spaces.

Lambeth’s Council leader, Councillor Steve Reed, said: “Lambeth has spent the past four years exploring how the community can get more involved in running local services. In widely different service areas like schools, housing and tackling crime we’ve learnt this approach delivers better services that cost less. Now we will take the model further and become the first council in the country to apply cooperative values right across the board. Our model differs from the Tories’ Big Society because while they want to roll back state, we want to change the role of the state, creating a new settlement between the citizen and public services with more power and control handed to local people. Our model empowers people to get on and make the changes they want to see in their local area, building better services and a stronger civic society at the same time.”

Vassall Labour Councillor Adrian Garden added "This is an exciting development for Lambeth which will make council services more responsive to residents. We already have examples of this approach in Vassall in the form of tenant management organisations such as PACCA and the Cowley estate TMO - these local organisations show that it works."