RADICAL changes to the way
Co-operative Action operates and is funded have been announced in the wake of a strategic review undertaken the body's Council.
Co-op Action, which was launched in response to recommendations made by the 2001 Co-operative Commission, will now be funded solely by the Co-operative Group after most of the original member societies said they preferred to develop regional development strategies rather than support the national effort.
A statement released on behalf of Co-operative Action said of the £ 3.5 million capital gathered by the fund, £ 3m was from the Group.
Following the review, Co-operative Action has launched a refocused approach to co-operative development that it predicts will have a significant and sustainable impact on the sector.
Changes to the way Co-operative Action, and its recently topped-up £ 1m development loan fund, will operate were revealed by Stephen Youd-Thomas, Head of Social Goals Strategy.
He told the News: "Co-operative Action has been a considerable success, the experience that retail co-ops have gained over the last three years now allows us to build on that success and develop a new and more sustainable package of benefits that will have a significant impact."
He added the future of grant aid is still under review, but the £ 1m loan fund – recently topped up with a £ 250,000 injection – will continue to give co-ops unrivalled opportunities to raise business finance.
The revolving fund managed by ICOF is now the most adventurous in the UK, says Mr Youd-Thomas, and offers high-risk loans of up to £ 75,000 and deferred interest-only capital repayment terms.
Co-operative Action says the trend of former member societies such as United, Midlands Co-op and Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester using the experience to develop their own regional community investment and development strategies could be expanded through the proposed development of Co-operative UK's Innovation and Development Fund which would offer flexible opportunities.
"The review felt the Innovation and Development Fund's close relationship with the New Ventures Panel, together with the improved Co-operative Action structure and the £ 1m loan fund, presents a combination that is in line with the Co-op Commission's original recommendation and builds on our experience," said Mr Youd Thomas.
Since Co-op Action was launched, 69 co-operative projects have been supported with grants totalling £ 2.1m and loans worth £ 757,000 – making an average of more than £ 41,400 per applicant.