Saturday, 17 November 2012

Wrecsam - Wales's co-op capital

Yesterday's launch of the Wales Cooperative Centre's report on community cooperatives attracted a great crowd to Saith Seren.

The only cooperative pub in the area is also featured on the front page of the Cooperative Enterprise Hub's annual review.
 But talking to many of the people attending, it struck me how far Wrecsam has come in terms of cooperatives and social enterprises.
 The Wrexham Supporters' Trust is, with 2500 members and growing, the grand-daddy of local cooperatives. It was ably represented by board members Tom Stamford and Gavin Jones, who gave a brief but compelling account of the WST's history in successfully trying to wrestle control of the third oldest football club in the world away from the sharks and vultures.
 There's also some great work done by the various social enterprises and cooperatives under the Caia Park Partnership umbrella and it was good to see Alison Hill representing them.
 North Wales Credit Union, which has an office in King Street and a membership in the thousands, was also present. As well as a savings facility, it has the ability to finance individual loans and could be the basis for a far more pro-active approach to developing cooperatives.
 Equally interesting was the presence of people interested in setting up cooperatives to create work and maintain services in the area. We'll be hearing more about this shortly.
 Other organisations such as Age Concern, @67 Communications (which has launched the Wrexham Community Choir) and the Wales Cooperative Centre's own digital inclusion team were also present, hinting that there is the potential for a network of local cooperatives and social enterprises to link up and find common ground. Wrecsam Council staff were also present.
 Saith Seren, as well as being a Welsh Centre for the town with a growing reputation for live music and other entertainment in both English and Welsh, is developing as a hub for cooperators in the area and opening rooms upstairs in the New Year will only strengthen that situation.
 These are all organisations doing great work, reliant on their members ingenuity and self-help rather than sitting back and expecting endless grants to keep going. 
 Other local ventures such as the Ty'n y Capel can join this growing network.
 These are interesting times both internationally and locally - big business is abandoning communities like ours, the state (whether local or central) is doing less to provide services. Communities will, as they always have done, come together to form societies and cooperatives to advance their common goals. We're ahead of the game here... it's time for Wrecsam to declare itself Wales's cooperative capital.


Anonymous said...

Creation of social enterprises is a good idea but the reality of that within Wales is a really good example of the Emperor and his clothes. The Wales Co-op Centre's "digital inclusion team" are funded by a European Convergence fund GRANT. And lots of other orgs calling themselves social enterprises are grant dependent and cannot rely on generating enough, if any, income from SELLING goods or services.
It is a silly mistake to for a 3rd sector organisation to call itself something it isn't - for after all receipt of grants for delivering services to the public is a good thing! If we keep insisting we are really TRADING, then we might find that grants are withdrawn in order to save government - both national and local - money. Shooting ourselves effectively in both feet.

Plaid Whitegate said...

I think we need to make a distinction between cooperatives at the coalface, including those who have benefitted from start-up help or grant funding to get off the ground, and those support services such as the WCC.
The question is whether 3rd sector organisations want to be perpetually living off grants or whether they want to find other income streams. Some won't be able to due to the nature of the work but others are. There's also a huge difference between getting grants and winning contracts to provide specific services. Councils and central government will find it much harder to stop funding a service rather than stopping a grant.