Update 15/05/2017: Labour Oldham council’s cooperative agenda costs the public purse another £22,928 in April including £9,928 to a Devon based brand marketer
Feb 2017: £64,981 is the cost for just two of Oldham Council’s many external partners tasked at promoting and delivering the coop message rather than actual services in just a four month period.
When services are cut at Oldham Council that service provision reduces or is removed altogether when Oldham Council cuts salaried positions to show solidarity with the public those jobs in reality away from the public gaze often flow to external providers while the expense stays in Oldham. After a quick peruse through Oldham Council’s October 2016 to January 2017 accounts we chose to highlight two external partners with links to the coop ethos. First is COOP Brand Ltd, this is a private limited company and on its obligatory about us page, after waffle about the coop movement history and poverty, comes the line “Allow me to help you showcase your cooperative identity” this is an information and marketing service provider working in the niche coop industry. Oldham Council already has a sizable in-house marketing team that has escaped all OMBC staff cuts in the last six years. Quite sure the public wouldn’t be happy to know the council also employs external additional marketing services.This company helps to promote Oldham Council and the co-operative councils innovation network which the council is part of. Under the cooperative devolution banner this website highlights the council’s Get Oldham Working scheme “which is an initiative to support local residents into sustainable jobs” think this needs an update. When we checked figures with Get Oldham Working in November 2015 42% of advertised employment opportunities were not sustainable jobs. As for the fair employment charter the Odeon Cinema which opened in the £39.2 million old town hall cinema complex decided to pay the minimum rather than living wage despite have bespoke premises built and funded by the council.
Second is Collaborate CIC (community interest company) this type of company structure is for businesses using their assets and operating profits for social enterprise to improve public circumstances. This structure does not prevent directors having sizable salaries and Collaborate has multiple high profile directors with undisclosed salaries. Quoting from their piece on Public Service Reform “Truly understanding and taking seriously the value of community action means public services investing differently, shifting thinking, culture and practice. Taking it seriously means a deeper level of commitment, putting community action at the heart of the public service reform agenda, where the two become mutually reinforcing with one informing and supporting the other. This is a model we are supporting Oldham to explore and we continue to test different mechanisms and actions for turning that ambition into reality.” Could you possible alienate the dwindling numbers of self-sufficient Oldham residents more? Those who feel they already get little in return for escalating public sector costs and don’t wish to have external bodies experiment with their money. Oldham Council is brazen in the way it allocates demographically targeted spending to those in Oldham who contribute very little if anything to the financial mechanisms of the public sector economy, they are sadly now in the majority. In another paper entitled “Systems change in public services” it states “We will also bring insights from other pieces of work that Collaborate are doing — for example helping Oldham council to develop its cooperative vision into a social movement” Not really an Oldham social movement when it is orchestrated by a London think tank, promoted by an information specialist in Devon on behalf of a political agenda that has been in control of Oldham and failed to deliver for residents for decades.
Never ceases to amaze how every social movement, every collective ethos, every champion of the forgotten always has a solution that includes a sizable outflow of funds to support the purveyors of yet another re-branding or re-imagining of the socialist utopia. As you travel home to your picturesque market town nothing confirms your self-approbation more than knowing you can relate to the deprivation in St Mary’s, Clarksfield, Abbey Hills and Werneth and it can all be fixed by planting some veg and becoming a “Your Oldham” champion.