Guest blogger Kaye Wiggins, journalist for Third Sector magazine, reports from last night’s co-operative council meeting
About 70 residents gathered in a warm, crowded room in Lambeth town hall last night to discuss the co-operative council plans.
During the two-and-a-half hour question and answer session with council leader Steve Reed, almost all of those that asked questions said they welcomed the idea, at least in theory. But they raised concerns about how it would work in practice.
One of the biggest concerns was how the council would make sure the whole local community had its say about the plans. “I know most of the faces here,” said a lady on the front row. “We’re always here; we’re always debating with the council. There are a lot of other people in the borough. We need to get to the grass roots.”
Reed said the public consultation on becoming a cooperative was the biggest the council had ever held. He said there would be surveys, roadshows, public meetings and – surprisingly – random vox pops outside tube stations during rush hours to ask local people what they thought.
He also said the co-operative idea was not just a way of coping with the 25 per cent cut the council will make to its overall spending in the next four years.
He said involving local people in providing public services would make the services more responsive to the community’s needs. He stopped short of saying which services would be provided in this way, but said housing would be “an extremely interesting area to look at”.
One resident voiced a concern that seems likely to be repeated as the consultation goes on. “I already co-operate with the council by paying my taxes,” she said.
But maybe we should take heart from a suggestion made by councillor Jackie Meldrum, who said there could be “some kind currency to be a reward system” for residents that helped the council to deliver its services.