Central England, the Phone Co-op and Riverside Housing Co-operative named Co-operatives of the Year

Central England Co-operative has won the 2016 Leading Co-operative of the Year Award. The result was announced on Friday, 17 June, at Co-operative Congress in Wakefield, alongside the awards...

Central England Co-operative has won the 2016 Leading Co-operative of the Year Award.

The result was announced on Friday, 17 June, at Co-operative Congress in Wakefield, alongside the awards for the Growing Co-operative and Inspiring Co-operative of the Year.

Co-operatives UK’s annual Co-operative of the Year awards, which in 2016 were sponsored by the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network, celebrate the UK’s co-operative sector. In 2015, 70 co-ops were nominated, from which nine were shortlisted by the awards nominations panel (the previous year’s winners were not able to enter). Members of the public were invited to vote for their favourite co-ops between 12 May and 13 June.

Also nominated in the Leading Co-operative of the Year category, for co-ops with a turnover above £30m, were Scotmid Co-operative and the Southern Co-operative.

Central England has over 400 trading outlets across the UK, which makes it one of the largest independent retailers. It runs 200 food stores, as well as post offices, travel branches, florists, opticians, masonry outlets, a crematorium and a coffin factory. In 2015 the society invested £29.5m in ten new food stores, four new funeral homes and refurbishment across the business. Central England also reached the £1m fundraising target for its charity partner, Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.

Martyn Cheatle, chief executive of Central England Co-operative, said: “As an inclusive and progressive society our vision is to be the UK’s best co-operative by making a real difference to our members and communities. I believe winning this award shows that we are on the right track and that our members and customers feel we have their best interests at heart.

“This award will be celebrated throughout the year and used to highlight the positive impact we continue to make on the communities in which we trade and the wider UK economy. I’d like to say a heart-felt thank you to everyone who voted, you have provided Central England Co-operative with the inspiration to strive for even higher levels of community engagement, business success and co-operative working.”

The Phone Co-op won the Growing Co-operative of the Year category

For the Growing Co-operative of the Year category, the award went to the Phone Co-op, the only co-operative provider of fixed, mobile, telephone and internet services. Co-ops nominated for this category had a turnover between £1m and £30m. The shortlist also featured Salford Community Leisure and Webarchitects.

The Phone Co-op, which dates back to 1998, includes 11,000 members who run the business democratically. A pioneer of the Fair Tax Mark, the Phone Co-op has also been helping to grow the co-operative movement by supporting two student housing co-operatives in Birmingham and Sheffield.

Chief executive Vivian Woodell said: “We’re delighted that The Phone Co-op has been recognised by co-operators across the UK in this prestigious national award. It’s a tribute to everyone involved, including the Board and all my colleagues who work so hard every day to make sure we’re providing the best possible service, while making a real co-operative difference as well.

“It’s also a tribute to our members, without whose support The Phone Co-op couldn’t have achieved what it has. It means a huge amount to all of us that we’ve won because of the support of people across the UK. You’ve given us the encouragement to keep pushing ahead and to take The Phone Co-op and co-operation to the next level. Thank you!”

Riverside Housing co-op won the Inspiring Co-operative of the Year category

Co-ops with a turnover of up to £1m were able to enter the Inspiring Co-operative of the Year category. Five co-ops were shortlisted for the award, which went to Riverside Housing Co-operative. The other nominees were the Media Co-op, Bala Sport, Paper Rhino and the Fox and Hounds Community Co-operative.

Also known as Redditch Co-operative Homes (RDC), Riverside Housing Co-operative supports five neighbourhood co-operatives in Redditch. The co-op offers a range of tenures including shared ownership and co-operative rented properties, and is one of seven organisations in the wider Accord Group.

Receiving the award on behalf of the co-op, Carl Taylor, director/head of strategy at Accord Group, said the co-op had some of the most environmentally friendly homes in the UK. “We are incredibly environmentally friendly, thank you very much for the award”.

Nick Matthews, chair of Co-operatives UK, which organises the awards, said: “The annual Co-operative of the Year awards are a unique way to celebrate co-operative excellence and, for the shortlisted organisations, a superb opportunity to engage with staff and members on what it means to be a co-operative.

“The shortlisted organisations demonstrate the sheer breadth of the co-operative sector and the winners in each category are superb examples of co-operative excellence – a high performing customer owned retailer, a commercial and ethical telecoms provider, and tenant owned affordable housing. Congratulations to our three co-operatives of the year.”

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