Co-operatives UK boosts income by 30% to achieve surplus

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...

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.

Ed Mayo presenting the annual report [photo: Co-operatives UK]
Ed Mayo presenting the annual report [photo: Co-operatives UK]
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.

Congress 2016: Developing a national co-op development strategy

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.

AGM delegates voting. [photo: Co-operatives UK]
AGM delegates voting. [photo: Co-operatives UK]
Another important area of work for Co-operatives UK is advocacy. Over the past 12 months the organisation and its members have been involved in lobbying and campaigning, responding to two Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) consultations. More than 500 societies responded to the first FCA consultation in November 2014 and another 163 responded to a second FCA consultation in July.According to Co-operatives UK, the final document makes “a clearer delineation between legal requirements, FCA policy and good practice”. Mr Mayo highlighted that the regulator’s initial definition of a co-operative excluded retail societies and worker co-operatives. Another win has been the clear assertion that societies should pay interest up to what is necessary to obtain and retain enough capital to run the business as restrictive interest rate caps were scrapped.In March, the government launched a review to increase the economic and social impact of mission-led businesses in the UK economy. The review is looking at how this emerging sector can be supported to double in size over the next decade.

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.

In this article

Join the Conversation