Co-operatives UK, the trade organisation for co-ops, has reported sound financial results, with a £22,498 surplus before tax. The figure represents an increase from 2016’s £14,392, after the apex body’s investment portfolio had exceeded expectations.
The year 2016 marked the halfway point in Co-operatives UK’s three-year strategy to deliver clear value to members, become a centre of excellence for co-operative governance and double the number of large co-operatives in membership. According to chair Nick Matthews, the organisation has made progress on all fronts.
Addressing the annual Co-operative Congress in Wakefield, secretary general Ed Mayo said the focus had been to run a “tight ship” and use members’ money in effective ways.
The organisation had a total income of £2.919m in 2016, in line with last year’s income of £2.914m. During the past year Co-operatives UK has sought to diversify income and managed to achieve its target, having 61% of income coming from sources other than the retail society partners’ subscriptions. The value of projects funded by external sources increased by £100,000.
In 2016 Co-ops UK’s projects team delivered support equating £2.8m. The apex provided 208 co-op members with advice, some of that through a new contact package as well as through project funding. It has also supported 500 organisations with advice and guidance material and helping to start 121 new co-ops.
In its first year, the Hive, a Co-operatives UK business advice programme funded by the Co-operative Bank, supported 86 groups and co-ops with expert advice worth £74,600, with 1,300 employees and volunteers benefiting through Hive support.
Co-operatives UK is also involved in the Community Economic Development (CED) programme, which is funded by the department of communities and local government. Through the programme it has supported 21 groups in delivering economic change in their area in 2010.
In terms of membership, Co-operatives UK retained 100% of its society members and 76% of all members. Only 34% of the top 100 UK co-operatives are members of the national trade body. The trade body is working to address this. In 2016 it welcomed dairy co-op Arla as a new member. Other large co-ops could follow in the future, said Mr Mayo, adding that the apex organisation would give them the chance to join a wider sector, which includes giants such as the Mondragon Group.
Lobbying was another key area of focus for Co-operatives UK, which ran a campaign around tax incentives for employee ownership.
“The government released data which shows that tax incentives still skewed towards best paid executives. We want to see those incentives open to companies to all staff not just senior executives,” said Ed Mayo. Co-operatives UK was also involved in helping to shape a new legislation for co-ops in Northern Ireland and worked with the government’s Inclusive Economy Unit to increase support for and understanding of co-ops.