Ten-point plan revealed as Labour plans to double size of £87.9bn mutual and cooperative sector

Trade bodies representing building societies and cooperatives have put forward a ten-point plan to Keir Starmer to help turn Labour’s ambition to double the size of their sector into reality.

Labour’s manifesto for government included a pledge to “aim to double the size of the UK’s co-operative and mutuals sector”, with the party saying it would work with the sector “to address the barriers they face, such as accessing finance”.

Following Labour’s election last week, the chief executives of the Building Societies Association, Co-operatives UK, the Association for Mutuals and the Association of British Credit Unions Limited have written a joint letter to Sir Keir Starmer with their views on how to fulfil that ambition.

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The letter states: “Our members - mutual and co-operative businesses with over 74 million memberships – make a significant contribution to the UK economy, with combined annual revenues of £87.9 billion, equating to 3.5 per cent of UK GDP.

Labour wants to double the size of the mutuals and cooperatives sector. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireLabour wants to double the size of the mutuals and cooperatives sector. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Labour wants to double the size of the mutuals and cooperatives sector. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

"These businesses are consistently top performers when it comes to resilience, investment in people and communities, productivity, fairness, and decarbonisation.

"There is an inherent link between people, including the customers of a business, having a ‘stake and a say’ in the business and the outcomes that business produces. It’s hard to imagine the water companies pumping sewage into our rivers if they were owned and controlled by the people that swam in them.

"Likewise, if postmasters had a stake in the running of the Post Office, it seems more likely that they would have investigated issues with the IT system rather than blame and prosecute the postmasters.”

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The ten-point plan put forward by the trade bodies include the creation of a new Minister for Mutuals and Co-operatives and the establishment of a new industry council to partner with Government focused on doubling the size of the sector.

Other ideas include reviewing the case for mutualising the Post Office and considering creating new Public Service Mutuals, potentially including the new Great British Energy body the Government is establishing.

It also suggests that the Treasury establishes a British Business Bank fund specifically for new and growing mutuals and cooperatives, as well as implementing the Mutual Deferred Shares Act 2015. The law would allow building societies and some mutual insurers to permit or facilitate the issue of deferred shares.

The letter accompanying the plan said: “In advance of the election, we collaborated, coordinated, and prepared. The co-operative and mutual sector is united around an ambition for growth and clear policy priorities for unlocking it. Labour’s manifesto pledge to remove barriers to our growth, including access to finance, aligns fully with our preparations.

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"We and our member businesses are a ready partner for your government. We look forward to working with you to deliver mutual and co-operative growth that benefits our communities, our society, and our country.”

An HM Treasury spokesperson said: “We are strong supporters of the mutual and co-operative sector. Our aim is to double the size of the sector, driving innovation and economic growth across the country, which creates good jobs that pay people a decent wage, helps to build stronger communities and funds strong public services.

“We will work closely with the sector to combat the current barriers they face and consider further opportunities for growth.”

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