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Back worker co-ops to reduce inequality, government told

Co-operatives UK says the government should create a ‘clear national policy objective’ to support a voluntary expansion of employee and worker-owned businesses, including worker co-operatives and employee ownership trusts.  

The organisation has launched a campaign called #1MillionOwners which calls on the government to allocate £2.17m over the next three years to support the growth of the sector which they believe could support one million workers by 2030.

The funding would help five local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) pilot an intervention to address what evidence suggests are the biggest barriers to the more widespread adoption of employee and worker ownership: a lack of accurate information and helpful advice; and a lack of awareness, practical understanding and confidence in these models among entrepreneurs, business owners, workers and those who advise them.

Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK said: ‘When it comes to reducing wealth inequality, driving employee engagement and tackling regional resilience, employee and worker ownership offers a proven solution.

‘The UK’s best employee-owned businesses and leading worker co-ops can be the answer to a more inclusive economy at a time of great economic uncertainty, and we’re urging Westminster government to match the Scottish Government’s ambition for a fivefold increase in the number of employee and worker-owned businesses by 2030.’

Co-operatives UK has highlighted the work of the Scottish Government who currently invest around £500,000 each year in a very successful awareness-raising and advice programme that has mainstreamed employee buyouts as a route for planned succession.

They say this demonstrates how modest funding properly spent can help expand employee and worker ownership.

In February, Plymouth City Council announced plans to a £1.2m fund to help local people set up co-operatives and mutuals.

The Co-operative and Mutuals Development Fund will be aimed at residents who join forces to meet common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

According to the council, there are 23 co-operative enterprises already based in Plymouth with a combined turnover of £18.6 million and membership of over 9,500 people.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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