Communities should be given greater opportunities to take a stake in energy suppliers and other key services in their areas, according to the Social Economy Alliance.
The alliance, made up of more than 400 social businesses and not-for-profit organisations, has made the call in its general election manifesto, published today.
The manifesto includes 25 recommendations to help strengthen the social enterprise sector, including the creation of more right-to-buy options to allow communities to run or have a greater stake in infrastructure and utility companies in their areas. The alliance cites the example of Welsh Water, a company that reinvests its profits for the benefit of its customers, as the type of organisation that it would like to see encouraged.
The alliance also calls for new measures to strengthen the Public Service (Social Value) Act 2012, which requires public bodies to consider taking into account community benefit, not just price, when awarding contracts to providers.
The manifesto calls for the act to be extended to the purchasing of goods and works, infrastructure development and the management and disposal of assets. Public bodies should also publish their social value priorities and weighting of contracts toward them, the manifesto says.
It also includes a call for new measures to prevent "land banking", where useable commercial and residential properties are purchased but then left empty. The alliance calls for the creation of a royal commission on land reform that would have the power to determine how land could be used for social purposes. "This is critically important when the nation faces a housing crisis, as well as a blight of empty commercial and residential properties in many areas," the manifesto says.
The alliance partners also call for the creation of a community banking act, which would require banks and other financial service providers to disclose their lending to voluntary sector organisations and small businesses.
The manifesto will be accompanied by a new advertising campaign combining famous faces from the left and right of politics. The adverts, which will feature on billboards, posters and tube station ticket gates, merge the faces of high-profile political figures, including Margaret Thatcher and Che Guevara, Boris Johnson and Karl Marx, Winston Churchill and Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan and Fidel Castro, and Angela Merkel and John Prescott.
Celia Richardson, director of the Social Economy Alliance, said in a statement: "Great ideas often emerge during hard economic times and this has happened in the UK lately. Social enterprises and coops are outperforming traditional, for-private-profit businesses for growth and optimism. Our political leaders must support the social economy alternatives that people are creating for themselves, like community energy schemes, social enterprise nurseries and cooperative housing."