New Year Honours list recognises contributions from social sector

The New Year Honours list, which highlights the achievements and service of individuals across the UK, has recognised the contributions of the co-operative and social enterprise sectors. This year 1,196 people including servicemen...

The New Year Honours list, which highlights the achievements and service of individuals across the UK, has recognised the contributions of the co-operative and social enterprise sectors.

This year 1,196 people including servicemen and women, politicians, volunteers and business people were honoured, while 48% were women and 5.7% from ethnic minorities.

Those recognised from the co-operative and mutual sectors include:

Philip Wolfe, MBE

Philip Wolfe, co-founder and chair of Westmill Solar Co-operative, was announced as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to renewable energy and the energy sector.

Westmill Solar became the UK’s first community-owned solar energy farm in June 2012, following a share offer that raised £4.2 m. The funds enabled the co-operative to buy the solar park from the initial investors and create a large-scale community solar photovoltaic (PV) project. It now has 1,658 members.

One of the pioneers of the UK renewable energy industry, Mr Wolfe has been involved in the sector since the 1970s when he became the first chief executive of what is now BP Solar.

He later established his own photovoltaics company, Intersolar Group, which from 1993 to 2002 was the sole UK manufacturer of photovoltaic cells. He is a panel member of the Climate Bonds Initiative, a non-executive director for Communities for Renewables and Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd, and is the founder of Wiki-Solar.


Peter Twyman, MBE
Peter Twyman, MBE

Peter Twyman, a music teacher at Lipson Co-operative Academy, received the British Empire Medal (BME) for services to young people and music.

Based in Plymouth, Lipson is “a co-operative school whose learners, teachers and parents believe in a value-driven education”, and was one of the first ten Performing Arts Colleges in the country.

An ex Royal Marines Bandsman, Mr Twyman joined Lipson in 2004 after 17 years in the Armed Forces. He works with students who want to join one of the forces and leads the school’s teams in the annual Ten Tors challenge.

He is an advanced skills teacher in music, as well a composer, conductor and professional clarinettist, violinist and bass guitarist.

He also conducts the Co-operative Big Band – a 30 piece semi-professional band consisting of players from across the county based at the school – with Gavin Martin, jazz pianist and head of music.

Steve Baker, principal at Lipson, told the Plymouth Herald that Mr Twyman was a “rare breed”, adding that music at the school was rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted because of his teaching.

“It has been many years since a GCSE student taught by him has not attained a top grade,” said Mr Baker. “He is an inspirational teacher who has transformed the life chances of countless individuals.

“It is one thing leading music provision in areas where complementary education and access to instruments and tuition is commonplace – it is quite another challenge to develop strong sustainable bands in an area facing so many challenges.”

Jessica Steele, founder and director of Jericho Road Solutions, received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to community assets in the UK.

Jess Steele
Jess Steele OBE

Jericho Road “bridges policy and practice to help local leaders make better neighbourhoods, and to influence government, funders and corporates to make that easier”, said Ms Steele. It is built on 25 years experience of working intensively with local neighbourhoods and at national level to support neighbourhood development.

“I care, viscerally, about neighbourhoods – the way some people care about families,” she added. “I believe in solidarity, tolerance, openness and, most of all, the power – and hard work – of collective action.”

One of Jericho Road’s projects is its work with piers. The organisation was instrumental in bringing Hastings Pier into community ownership, and Ms Steel herself was co-founder of the People’s Pier Co-operative, which runs the site.

“I never set out to know as much about piers as I do!” said Ms Steele. “After seven years at the heart of the victorious Battle for Hastings Pier, I want to share the lessons for the 30 other traditional (open-legged) piers around our coastline.”

Co-operatives UK published her report, People’s Piers, as part of its Fresh Ideas series in August 2013.

Greg Valerio, jeweller, activist and Fairtrade campaigner was awarded an MBE for his work in Fairtrade Gold and with gold mining communities in South America and Africa.

Greg Valerio MBE

A jeweller since 1996, Greg first saw the exploitation of the jewellery supply chain in India – slavery, child labour and people working in terrible conditions. This experience motivated him to become an activist in the jewellery industry and by 2004 he had managed to deliver the world’s first traceable gold, from mine to wedding ring.

In 2011 Greg worked with the Fairtrade Foundation to launch the world’s first Fairtrade gold from artisanal and small-scale miners in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia.

Mr Valerio said: “This award belongs to all of us and I hope that it will embolden us all to keep fighting for fairness in the jewellery trade.”

He added: “Jewellery and justice are not incompatible and lost to each other. The great challenge we now face is to forge a new luxury jewellery narrative that connects the aspirational emotion of the purchase with the dignity of the source.

“This is true luxury jewellery, a legacy of peace, justice and prosperity for the communities at the source and a continued celebration of design, creativity and love in the gift that is given.”

Afsheen Kabir Rashid, a community energy specialist, was  announced as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her contribution to renewable energy projects in deprived London communities.

Afsheen Kabir Rashid, MBE
Afsheen Kabir Rashid, MBE

Ms Rashid has been involved in community energy projects for over 10 years, having worked with local authorities to develop new schemes.

She is a former senior policy advisor at the department of energy and climate change and current chair of the Brixton Energy Solar Co-op.

She is also chief operating officer and co-founder of Repowering London, a community benefit society specialised in co-producing community-owned renewable energy projects.

Her work has included developing Lambeth Council’s Community Energy Programme and managing the Mayor’s Low Carbon Zone programme in Brixton, driving carbon reduction by 12% over a two-year period.

Nationwide’s chief executive Graham Beale was awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to the financial services sector. Mr Beale has lead the mutual building society through a change in financial services and the wider economy.

Graham Beale CBE
Graham Beale CBE

David Roberts, Nationwide’s chair, said: “Under Graham’s leadership, Nationwide kept its nerve and continued to lend to customers and invest heavily in the business for the benefit of all members, when other competitors were retrenching. We also maintained our absolute focus on delivering exceptional customer service and excellent products.

“Nationwide achieved all of this while strengthening our financial position, including developing a new capital raising instrument, suitable for other mutuals. Graham’s success in piloting the business through the challenges of the financial crisis has placed the Society in a very robust position, with a strong balance sheet that provides a safe home for savers.”

Last year, Mr Beale, who is also chair of the Building Societies Association, was named one of 2015’s Business People of the Year by the Times. The newspaper stated: “For members of the mutual, it seems clear that in Mr Beale they have had one of the best, if not the best, chief executives in Britain.”

Paul Winter, chief executive of the Ipswich Building Society received an MBE for services to Skills and Employment of Young People. In east Suffolk, Mr Winter led a successful bid for Ipswich to gain funding through the Government’s City Deal initiative, which brought large scale investment to the town and surrounding areas to boost skills of young people and increase economic prosperity in the area.

Paul Winter MBE
Paul Winter MBE

This led to the opening of MyGo in Ipswich, the UK’s first employment centre for young people aged 16-24. MyGo is a multi-service initiative, offering practical skills development and training to support young people into sustainable employment.

Mr Winter said: “Chairing the City Deal and bringing investment to Ipswich, and opening MyGo, was a great achievement but also the result of a the hard work of a lot of people. I am delighted to have been awarded an MBE and will continue to work on improving the education and employment skills of young people in our county.”

Councillor Tudor Evans, leader of Plymouth City Council (PCC), was awarded an OBE, for political service and service to local government.

A longstanding member of the Co-operative Party, and former vice-chair of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network, Councillor Evans spearheaded plans to turn Plymouth City Council into a co-operative council. “What makes co-operative councils unique is that we are not only trying to transform our public services but we are doing it in a way that is congruous with co-operative values,” he said at the time.

Tudor Evans, OBE
Councillor Tudor Evans OBE

In the 2015 elections, Labour lost its narrow majority at PCC, but Tudor Evans retained his seat in Ham, and was named Council Leader of the Year in 2015 at the LGiU Councillor Achievement Awards Ceremony.

His inclusion in the New Year Honours list came as “a big surprise,” said Councillor Evans, who expressed “delight” that the work happening in Plymouth was being recognised.

“It is a great honour for me personally but I always say that I lead a team. What we have achieved in Plymouth is thanks to all my colleagues over the years, the council staff who do great work, my family who support me and not least the people of Plymouth who allow me to do this job.”

He added: “We have been in some pretty difficult places in the four decades during which I have been on the council but we are in a much better place now. Plymouth is definitely on the way up.”

  • This article was updated on 15 January to include Councillor Tudor Evans, OBE
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