Doreen Shaw of Midcounties, Joe Hill of Scotmid, Michael Sherwood of Heart of England and Nicola Palmer of Calverts, are all retiring having individually served their different co-operatives for in excess of 30 years.
In his presentation, Secretary General Ed Mayo went on to remind delegates of the “unique” role that Co-operatives UK plays as the “democratic, independent forum for the Movement.” He said that in many instances the organisation has to take on a defensive role, acting as a “goalkeeper” for its members, guarding their difference, value and integrity.
In recognising the value of this difference he said Co-operatives UK had been working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure it cracks down on any business calling itself a co-operative when in fact it is anything but.
And he said work was being done to protect the Movement’s dividend from international accounting rules which threaten to redefine its allocation.
As defender of the Co-op difference, this also covered international campaigns, most recently in Poland where there are moves to convert all co-ops into joint stock companies. Mr Mayo said Co-operatives UK, in common with the International Co-operative Alliance and Co-operatives Europe, was protesting in solidarity with co-operators.
Mr Mayo added that, when compared with other similar business organisations, Co-operatives UK provided good value to its members. The organisation welcomed 122 new members over the last year. Many were new enterprises set up through the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, while others were existing, long established businesses (such as Benenden Healthcare) who had not previously been part of Co-operatives UK.
More than 300 enterprises had been supported with legal and governance advice and 241 had received training in co-op models, through support delivered with the Soil Association and Plunkett Foundation.
Looking forward, Mr Mayo said the Movement was entering an “exciting and critical period” during which Co-operatives UK was keen to engage fully with members to “see what members need and see where we as a sector need to be”.
Phil Holmes reported on Co-operatives UK’s financial performance and said the launching of such a significant event as Co-operatives Fortnight, with all its financial implications, created difficulties in accurately comparing the year with others.
Savings of around £18,000 had been made by the decision to no longer publish the Co-operatives magazine, but gas works at the head office Holyoake House and changes to comply with disability discrimination law meant going over budget by £12,000. Though, the organisation had recorded an £80,000 surplus, with net assets of £813,000.
The AGM approved a number of proposals: to reappoint KPMG LLP as auditors; and to increase directors’ fees from £1,200 to £1,415. The only proposal to require a vote was a rule change to introduce a three year retirement cycle for Co-operatives UK’s directors with a maximum term of nine years, removing the maximum age restriction. The move was approved by 14,920 in favour, 1,778 against.