NEW rules for the Co-operative Press, publisher of the News, will allow individual co-operators to become members for the first time.
The rule changes, designed to make the society more democratically accountable, were approved at the Press annual meeting held during the Co-operative Congress in May and have just been registered by the Financial Services Authority.
Under the revised constitution, membership will be open to any readers who open a share account with a minimum of £ 10, entitling them to attend annual meetings, vote in board elections, nominate candidates and stand for election as a director.
From next year the Press Board will consist of seven directors, the same number as at present. In future, however, three directors will be appointed by Co-operative Group and one by United Co-operatives ? the two largest shareholders ? leaving two seats open for election by smaller co-operatives and a seat exclusively reserved for individual members.
"This is a radical step, as until now individual co-operators have been unable to qualify for membership and shareholding was reserved exclusively for corporate bodies, most of whom have been retail co-operative societies," the Co-operative Press Secretary, Iain Williamson, explained.
"With these changes the board aims to broaden accountability and membership by attracting individual readers as well as every type of co-operative, large and small.
"The content of the News has changed dramatically in recent times to include many new forms of co-operative and social enterprise that are making such an impact in the wider movement. The board is convinced that in future our ownership and direction should also reflect ? and benefit from ? this co-operative diversity."
Other rule changes include the abolition of an age restriction on directors. Directors will serve for a maximum of six consecutive years, after which they must stand down for at least a year before becoming eligible for further election or appointment.
The rules come into effect immediately, with the first elections and appointments of directors under the revised constitution scheduled for May 2005.
Application forms for individual and corporate members are due to be published in the News and this website during September.
? At a recent board meeting of the Co-operative Press Jeanette Timmins was re-elected Chair and Peter Senior was elected Vice-Chair.