Proposal of co-operatives to run key Capital projects

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After-school clubs, energy projects and housing estates would all be run by a series of new “co-operatives” set up by the city council under radical new proposals from the main opposition group in Edinburgh.

Labour is set to propose that the authority becomes a new “Co-operative council”, under proposals which will form a key part of its manifesto for next year’s local elections.

The party believes that following the lead of other councils that have used co-operatives, including Lambeth and Newcastle, could lead to better services for residents and more involvement in decision-making from people across the community.

But some of the initial up-front costs of the proposals are not yet known – and may prove a stumbling block in the current public spending climate.

A series of 17 Labour-run councils in England have already become members of the new “Co-operative Councils Network” but Edinburgh would become the first Scottish authority to get involved.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the city council, said: “We believe that these ideas can help take Edinburgh forward, and give local people a much greater say in the way their services are run.

“While the current SNP/Lib-Dem administration wishes to privatise our services, Labour are determined to develop and improve public services

“We believe we need radical solutions and a clear vision to improve our services. In key areas like housing, childcare and energy Labour can play a key role facilitating change.”

Under the proposals, the council would become the majority shareholder in a new energy co-op that would attempt to push domestic renewable energy.

It would have to pay for the purchase of solar panels, and would then install them on the roofs of council-owned buildings, including homes and tenements. The buildings would then benefit from lower energy costs and any excess energy produced and not used would be sold to the National Grid – potentially bringing about a profit and a dividend for the council as main shareholder.

A childcare co-op would oversee all after-school and breakfast clubs run by schools – ensuring a more consistent service across all schools and better training for the staff.

The housing co-op would deliver affordable housing and give tenants a role in managing how the estates are run.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education spokesman for the Labour group, believes the childcare co-op would have a big impact on services. He said: “The feedback we have got is that, at the moment, service is patchy and there are issues with the training and development of staff.”