2015 was a challenging year, but there are positive stories to tell, general secretary Claire McCarthy told delegates at the 2016 Co-operative Party Conference in Cardiff. Next year the Party will be running a series of events to mark its centenary anniversary, including tours and exhibitions across the UK to highlight the organisation’s long history and achievements.
The general election saw 24 Labour/Co-op MPs take seats, out of the 44 candidates standing for election. The Party is currently represented by 25 Labour/Co-op MPs, following Jim McMahon’s election in the Oldham by-election.
At local level, the Party is represented by over 500 Labour/Co-op councillors, 116 of whom were elected in 2015. It has two police and crime commissioners: Alun Michael in South Wales and Ollie Martins for Bedfordshire.
As well as campaigning for the general election, the Party has focused on running the Keep it Co-op campaign, asking members of the Co-operative Group to vote at their AGM to maintain the subscription to the Party.
Due to a drop in income from subscriptions and an increase in expenditure related to the campaigns, as well as a historic underpayment of National Insurance, the Party had a deficit of £58,000, which the NEC had budgeted for.
Referring to the Keep it Co-op campaign, Ms McCarthy said it was becoming a constant effort to work with societies and the wider co-operative movement. “We need you to be local actors for the party and the wider movement,” she told AGM delegates.
The party witnessed an increase in membership figures throughout 2015 and is now counting around 9,800 members.
“Individual membership is driving forward, a positive story to tell,” she said. “Some members increase direct debits and that helps.
“We want to have more co-op societies join us, not just retail, for some it would be a journey. It will take time but we’re working on this.”
She added that some umbrella organisations may not think it appropriate to join the party, but continued to support it.
Throughout the year, the party has run campaigns for an Armed Forces credit union, a people’s BBC, non-profit buses and community energy. It has also become a Living Wage employer and the first political party to be awarded the Fair Tax Mark.
At the Party’s recent annual general conference in Cardiff, delegates voted to accept the annual report and accounts, to keep membership fees at the same level and to review the Party’s regional structure.