NORTH East Co-op is to lose much of its regional autonomy in January as part of a major management re-structure in the wake of Chief Executive Neil Arnold's proposed retirement.
The changes will see the North Eastern & Cumbrian Region integrated more fully with the Group's central management team in Manchester – a move that will reduce overall costs and effectively spell the end of North East Co-op's unique status negotiated at the time of its merger with the then CWS 14 years ago.
Mr Arnold is to step down at the end of the financial year when he will be 60 years old.
A total of 22 management positions and 27 other jobs at the regional headquarters in Gateshead are currently scheduled for redundancy, although it is expected that this number will decrease prior to the end of the year.
Among the senior people opting to take early retirement in January is Ian Drinkel the region's Food and Non-Food Group Controller. Keith Green, Retail Operations Manager has been appointed as Regional Chief Officer to head the new-look retail team.
Other executive team members scheduled to leave next year include: Alan Charlton, Property Controller; Steve Allan, Financial Controller; Liz Jennings, Human Resources General Manager; and Ged Gray, Training and Development General Manager.
Co-operative Group Secretary, Nick Eyre, who has served on the North Eastern & Cumbrian Regional Board for five years, will take on Neil Arnold's role of Group Executive member with responsibility for ensuring effective evolution towards an integrated management structure and will also have executive responsibility for the Priory Motor Group.
`The region has played an important role within the Group for the past 14 years and the current proposals have sought to build on the region's strengths,` said Society Chief Executive Martin Beaumont. `They will take the partnership into an exciting new phase which will benefit both the region and the wider Group.`
The proposals – which have been the subject of extensive consultation with the unions, elected members and employees – were recently agreed by the Group's Board and a series of workstreams have been established to ensure a smooth transition.
A statement released by North Eastern & Cumbria Co-op last week said that the region's democratic structures would be unaffected by the changes.
Said Mr Arnold: `Since my appointment as Regional Chief Executive in 1990 there have been a number of evolutionary changes as business circumstances changed and I have been immensely proud of the way our employees have upheld the highest of standards, enabling our business to record excellent profit growth during my tenure.
`Earlier this year Martin Beaumont and I agreed that I would leave in January and this provides an opportunity to take another evolutionary step to ensure that the region and the Group nationally can further streamline its operations, reduce costs and increase profitability at a time when the market is extremely tough.`
In addition to his responsibility for the North East & Cumbria, Mr Arnold's national Group Executive duties were also extended two years ago to cover Farmcare, Robert Howarth, Goliath Footwear and ACC.