Council Leader Richard Farnell's round-up - Innovate and Co-operate

Date published: 13 September 2017

As the birthplace of the co-operative movement it was a logical decision for me to accept the role of vice chairman of the national Co-operative Councils Innovation Network.

I attended my first conference of the network last week; what an eye-opener the two day event was for me and my cabinet colleagues Councillors Allen Brett and Janet Emsley.

With a working strapline of: "We're committed to finding better ways of working with local people" the conference blurb, included the line: "Public Sector funding continues to decline. Councils are having to find innovative ways of providing services with reducing budgets."

How true this is, but, to be frank, although network are to be applauded for this dedicated and renewed call to action, we should not forget why this is the case.

Rochdale, as with many (mainly northern) towns and cities nationally, has suffered nearly 10 years of government-introduced austerity which has put a financial squeeze on council services.

It's a simple equation: continued austerity leads to pressures on council services which ultimately leads to changes, possibly reductions to how that service is delivered.

This is why the conference was so timely for us.

It was important that we sent out a clear message to local authorities up and down the country, that: "We want to claim the traditions of community action, community engagement and civic empowerment.

"It has always been the purpose of the Network to share our developing good practice and to support one another in our co-operative aims and values."

The information sharing among network members has been critical and the 'supportive' message is what it is all about.

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