The Co-operative and Mutual Economy 2023 is the only comprehensive report on the UK’s democratic economy.
The democratic economy is all those businesses and organisations that give people, collectively, genuine control and ownership. It is co-operatives, mutuals,
employee owned businesses, friendly societies. And it is important. Because of their democracy these businesses do more for people and their communities. They put their
members first – giving people a fair share in the wealth they help create.
Click the following link to read the full report: Co-operatives UK, Co-operative and Mutual Economy 2023
Pages 15 and 16 will be of particular interest to WGHC tenant members. These are summarised below:
David Quinn has an acute medical condition and requires care and attention on a weekly – and often daily – basis. For the 31-year-old, social housing needs
go beyond bricks and mortar, and that is where West Granton Housing Co-operative in Edinburgh comes in. David has been a member tenant since November 2021.
This means he is a part-owner in the co-operative, with a say in how the business operates. He said: “They’ve done nothing but help me. Everybody is really helpful,
absolutely amazing – I can’t fault them. It’s a community working together.”
For David it is often the little things that have the biggest impact, like knowing an eye is being kept on his home when attending appointments. Maintaining the local area and community engagement are also important. He said: “I don’t get any trouble. It’s a great community. The co-operative looks after the place and the parks.” WGHC has a social housing stock of 372 ‘general needs’ properties. It is a not-for-profit organisation, with all surpluses used to benefit its member tenants. Larke Adger is CEO of the social housing provider. She said: “It’s all about quality and making a difference. We’re not a housing association, we’re a housing co-operative. There’s a difference.
“The tenants – the members – pay our wage; it’s all about them. Our members are paramount in everything we do. We’re here for them. A lot of housing
associations do good work… but everything we do is about our tenants. That comes across in our service and our values. It’s not only a house; it’s a holistic
service and we’re here for all our members.” That holistic service has included providing air fryers, fuel top-ups, food vouchers and warm spaces over
the last year.
Larke added: “Let’s do things which work for our tenants. Let’s give people a bit of dignity. Sometimes it’s those little things that make a big
difference.” Member tenants have given WGHC the stamp of approval. In an independent survey, 99.5% were satisfied with the overall service provided. The national
picture is not as rosy, with less than 90% of tenants satisfied with levels of service received. WGHC also offers superior value for money. Average weekly rent for a one-bed property is almost 20% below the Scottish national average (£73.31 versus £87.80).
It is perhaps no surprise when the social landlord’s board is made up of member tenants. Larke said: “Tenants tell us how they want to be governed. They
come to the table with a business hat on, but they’re also a member. They live here. Our board members see the immediate impact of decisions.
“The turnover of properties is very, very low. We provide a community, an environment that’s pretty and that’s safe. People take pride in their homes. When
people visit, they’re shocked that it’s social housing.” The biggest surprise is that Scotland does not have more co-operative housing stock. There are just 54
housing co-ops at the start of this year, an increase of only seven since 2019. And that list is not limited to social housing, for which the picture is even bleaker.
Larke said: “I’d love for co-operatives to have a much bigger impact in the social housing sector. We demonstrate that tenant-led solutions work. I think we
need to find a way to increase the amount of co-operatively owned social housing stock.”