A co-operative future for public services?

An alternative way of providing public services in the wake of the most savage council spending cuts in Birmingham’s history will be explored at a one-day conference on Saturday.

The Co-operative Council – The Future of Public Service Delivery will look at how former public sector workers can form new co-operatives to provide services.

It is estimated that 2,500 council workers will lose their jobs as the city council seeks to slash £212 million from its budget.

Meanwhile, vulnerable residents will be looking to the private and charity sectors for social care. Public sector workers, the conference will be told, could form co-operatives to deliver services on behalf of the council and other statutory bodies.

The conference, organised by the Chamberlain Forum and Co-operatives West Midlands as part of the Resident University, will hear from experts including Ed Mayo (pictured), secretary-general of Co-operatives UK, the national trade body for the co-operative movement.

He will be joined by Rachel Heywood of Lambeth Council, which last year launched The Co-operative Council. Under the initiative, traditional council services will be delivered by not-for-profit businesses or organisations owned or part-owned by the people who provide and use them.

The conference will also hear from organisations already delivering public services as co-operatives. Speakers will include Laurie Gregory of Foster Care Co-op and Carl Taylor from Birmingham Co-op Housing Services.

Councillors, officials and front-line workers have been invited to the event, and organisers are keen to reach service users and anyone who would be interested in setting up a co-operative to deliver public services.

Experts will be on hand to offer advice on how to form a co-operative. The conference will be held at The Bordesley Centre, Stratford Road, Camp Hill, Birmingham B11 1AR from 10.30am to 3.30pm on Saturday, March 19.

Bookings can be made with Claire Spencer at claire@chamberlainforum.org or on 07795 448462, while more information about the conference can be found at www.cooperatives-wm.coop

Further information about the Resident University, which aims to help Birmingham residents make the most of their skills and get actively involved in paid and unpaid work, can be found at www.residentuniversity.net

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