Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Co-operators are co-operating

Last weekend Stephen Twigg and I went to the inaugural meeting of the North West North Co-operative Party council, which is the result of a merge of two party councils that were both covering our region. We also have the Greater Manchester Party Council.

Anyway, enough of the bureaucracy, what about the co-operating?

The interesting thing was afterwards. We had a celebratory dinner and I sat next to Louise Ellman MP. I took the opportunity to talk to her about her time as leader of Lancashire County Council and in particular how she had incorporated co-operative policies and ideals into their work.

We were talking particularly about economic development and enterprise, and she was telling me about a unit she set up to help establish business co-ops. Indeed a man came to our table to talk to her at one point, who had set up one such co-op many years ago as a result. It sounds really fascinating, I want to learn more about it in case it is something we can do in Liverpool.

The other thing we discussed was credit unions. Apparently Lancs CC had its own, may well still have for all I know. I was wondering whether Liverpool CC has one, I need to find out. I think it would be really marvellous to be able to offer membership of a credit union, and to allow transaction, via a one-stop-shop. So that evening after the dinner I contacted a personal friend of mine who works in the OSS in town to discuss this. He says there would be a few issues, mainly because we dont take cash on the OSSs. We would potentially have to pay securicor (or whoever) to come round all the OSSs every day, or pay for overnight security measures, safes etc. And that would also require, potentially, a big insurance premium. And as credit unions are non-profit making, I dont know where the money would come from to fund all that.

So it looks as though, for such an idea to get off the ground, transactions would have to be done by debit card. I dont know whether credit unions usually take cash - I am assuming that they do, but obviously I need to find that out, because if they function okay with debit cards, or perhaps postal orders? then it might still be a viable idea. This friend also thought there might be a LCC credit union, called Partners(I think he said), because he said he saved up for his season ticket with them one year. But I don't know if it is still running, nor whether it is open for all residents of Liverpool.

Maybe if there is already something in place, it could be extended to the OSSs so that we can make it more accessible to people. At difficult financial times, like those we are now in, people need to be kept out of the clutches of loan sharks. Our existing credit unions, like Edge Hill for instance, do a great job, but they don't have universal coverage (as far as I know) and they dont have an advertising budget.

LCC could promote a credit union through its existing communication streams without being a burden on the public purse.

Thoughts anyone?

(There is a photo of us at the dinner but I dont know how to get it out of the word document it has been embedded in, by the kind man who sent it to me. I shall add it later when I have resolved this)

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