Co-operatives UK, the trade body for co-operatives across the country, has increased its income from £2,231,965 to £2,914,953 for the year ended 31 December 2015. With expenditure rising by a similar percentage, Co-operatives UK reached a surplus before tax of £14,391, compared with the previous year’s deficit of £3,616.
The umbrella organisation has allocated £489,609 to donations and funding to co-operative and community initiatives in 2015, compared with £319,103 in 2014. The revenue from lettings in Holyoake House has also increased by 17%, as Co-operatives UK continues to invest in the building.
Introducing the annual report at the annual general meeting (AGM) in Wakefield, secretary general Ed Mayo said Co-operatives UK’s mission was to “promote, develop, and unite” co-operative enterprises.In terms of promotion, the trade body has adopted a new identity, with a new brand and website in line with the international co-operative marque that will help champion the movement. It is also working on improving the data available on co-operatives.
Last month Co-operatives UK released the latest version of the co-operative economy report, which shows co-ops contributed £34.1bn in a year to the UK economy. “The co-operative economy report was released on an open data platform and it will improve because loads of people within the sector know things about co-ops that we don’t know,” said Mr Mayo.
He added that Co-operatives UK had helped almost 300 co- operatives and mutual enterprises improve their governance in 2015. In addition, the organisation has introduced a new HR package in 2015, helping to provide HR advice and support, network opportunities and additional services to more than 100,000 employees of co-operatives.
In February, Co-operatives UK announced the launch of the Hive, a new support programme to help start or grow co-operatives and community businesses. The support is available face-to-face as well as through different channels, with the aim of keeping it “simple and effective”, said Mr Mayo.
2015 also featured the launch of the Community Economic Development programme, a partnership between Co-operatives UK, the Community Development Foundation, the New Economics Foundation, the Community Development Finance Association and Locality. The programme enabled communities to benefit from advice and technical support and £250,000 in direct grants to develop their local economic development plans. Co-operatives UK has also run an award winning community energy mentoring scheme. The 30 mentored organisations saved £100,000 in training and consultancy fees and were able to raise £1.4m in share equity.
There’s always an advantage in linking up, we have to link co-ops to things the government is talking about
Asked whether the initiative could open new opportunities for co-ops, Mr Mayo said: “What we’re saying is co-op societies weren’t included in some of the mechanisms to support businesses such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme. Co-ops were ruled out of that but community benefit societies were included.
We say – don’t keep leaving out the social business original model”. He added: “There’s always an advantage in linking up, we have to link co-ops to things the government is talking about.”
Co-operatives UK has also intervened to ensure that the Scottish Community Empowerment Act 2015 was amended to include community co-ops, enabling people to run local assets using the co-operative model.
In order to unite co-ops, the trade body has focused on some key events such as Co-operatives Fortnight, the Co-operative Retail Congress, the Worker Co-operative Weekend and the Co-operative Congress. In addition to these main conferences, Co-operatives UK has also hosted other training and networking events. Overall the 50 events were attended by over 1,000 people, 91% of whom rated these as “good” or “excellent”.
Mr Mayo added that the co- operative sector had secured “significant media coverage” in 2015, including 233 media stories with an advertising value equivalent estimated at £5.5m.
Members attending the AGM voted to accept the annual report and to appoint KPMG as auditors of Co-operatives UK.
They also backed a motion proposed by Ed Mayo that invited members to consider their contribution to the International Day of Co-operatives.