The Labour Co-Operative movement must deliver local change
The Northern Power House was George Osborne’s promise to re-balance the north south divide in the economy. The Tories are yet to explain how they intend to deliver on that promise.
They focus on productivity without exploring what people need to be ‘productive’. For a person to generate wealth for their family and society, they need to be healthy, skilled, supported and to know that those around them are also cared for.
Productivity — or the generation of wealth — is a measure of the health of society, not just the health of the economy.
A society with a housing crisis, care crisis, serious concerns over health and care of the vulnerable, concerns over access to education and life chances of future generations will not be productive. Globalisation and an increasingly changing world can be frightening for those whose opportunities are being taken away. The future can be so worrying that today is lost.
The self-proclaimed party of business, the Tory party, does not understand a basic business concept. For people to be more productive they must be cared for, their needs must be addressed.
A person who is hungry will focus on eating. A person who is worried about their elderly relative will focus on trying to attend to their needs. Employment, if they have managed to keep it, will not have their full attention. It feels like common sense because it is.
It is also a key business principle with the research and evidence to support it (Maslow anyone?). That’s why businesses like Google, Apple and others invest in facilities for employees: A happy workforce is a productive workforce.
If we in the Labour Co-operative movement took the Northern PowerHouse idea and applied our principles we could build a society full of opportunity for all.
To do this, we need to co-operate rather than compete as the Tories often force us to do, through divide and rule.
The North is a large part of England with each village, town and city with its own characteristics and strengths. We have to recognise the strengths of each area and work together to support one another in building on these strengths, including across existing co-operatives.
There is so much we can learn from each other. We should not be in a position where co-operatives and charities are needed to step in to deliver services that the state has completely abandoned, but we are.
We hear about the role of great cities of the north but not about towns and villages. The old industrial north had thriving towns and villages. At that time, people often did not need to travel far. They had schools, shops, clubs, community centres, cinemas and libraries in their village.
There is a battle underway to keep the services and facilities that we have today being fought by communities, by local Labour Co-operative Parties in local government and in parliament. Despite this, Tory cuts and economic mismanagement means that limited work and services is often how people experience the decline of their local area in the north today.
There are almost 7,000 co-operatives bringing £34 billion to the UK economy. Co-operatives already provide services such as transport, energy, telephony and broadband, child care facilities and community banks. To the shame of our society but the credit of those involved and donating, food banks and co-operatives feed those in need.
The huge growth in membership in the Labour Party means that we can share our knowledge and experiences of co-operatives. There are more of us to get involved and make changes to our local communities.
We need to encourage this through our local parties. Our residents have lots of needs. Five years is a long time to wait for a Labour Government.
Our Powerhouse is our people.
Janine has lived across the north and is a long standing Labour, Co-operative and Trade Union activist.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.