The Guardian reports this morning that Lambeth is to rebrand as the "John Lewis Council" – this is an echo of Barnet's easyCouncil label, but the move is prompted by the Conservatives plans announced earlier this week for co-ops to take over parts of the public sector.
It doesn't sound as if Lambeth is actually proposing to allows groups of its workers to run taking over the running of services as a co-op although their leader Cllr Steve Reed tells The Guardian: "Co-operatives and mutuals will be our compass." The problem with socialists is that they want to keep ownership and control in the hands of the state. It's in their DNA. So I would be sceptical if what is planned will amount to much when we see the details.
The proposal for an "Active Citizens Dividend" to provide a Council Tax rebate for those involved in voluntary activity is attractive in principle but sounds like it would be expensive to administer. There is a reference to "micro mutuals" for personalised budgets for care service users. What does this mean? Why not just focus on getting personalised budgets working? There is a reference to allowing tenants to take over their estates as cooperatives – but the article points out this can already happen. The main incentive Lambeth appears to provide is making a botch up of running housing services.
So there may be some good ideas here but it sounds a bit gimmicky. Rather policy on the hoof to allow the Labour Party to respond to Monday's headlines. It says it was all approved "two weeks ago" by the Lambeth Council Cabinet. Was it? They had a meeting on February 8 but I can't see it on the agenda. The meeting they had before that was January 18, something about prostitution but nothing about co-ops. A serach on Lambeth Coucnil's website for "micro mutuals" or "active citizens dividend" proves unrewarding. If these plans are so clear and advanced why haven't the people of Lambeth been told about them? Or is Cllr Reed making it up as he goes along?