WHILE 2005 had undoubtedly been a challenging year for Co-operatives UK, Chief Executive Dame Pauline Green told its AGM that the long-term view is encouraging, with the strategic approach taken over recent years starting to show.
In 2000 the then Co-operative Union had just 57 members, subscriptions were falling at a rate of 35 per cent and staffing had been reduced to just 18.
By the end of 2005, said Dame Pauline, this situation had been transformed with membership up a staggering 673 per cent to 441; subscription income rising at a rate of 18 per cent and staffing increased to 30.
In 2005, Co-operatives UK's had registered 171 new organisations, including 63 new co-ops.
Dame Pauline gave an undertaking to Congress that at Congress 2007 she would be able to give a verifiable figure of the contribution that co-operatives make to the UK economy.
And Co-operatives UK's newly acquired status as a Financial Services Authority referred provider meant that for the first time an electronic public register of all mutual societies would be available via the FSA web site.
Delegates received an update on the work of the New Ventures Panel and in particular work being supported by its Innovation and Development Fund.
This included the publication of Trading For Mutual Benefit, a practical guide on setting up co-operative consortia and A Better Way To Recycle, a guide to how co-operative approaches to waste management can add value.
Other successes including work on childcare co-operatives, which had already identified more than 120 such co-ops, work with the DTI on women and co-operatives and the Enterprise 4 Inclusion work on rural co-operation which had so far supported 100 different rural enterprises.
New initiatives announced at the AGM included details of a grant from the Department of Health to pilot direct payment co-operatives, a partnership agreement with the Carbon Trust to help members report on, and then reduce, their carbon emissions, and a new business bulletin providing technical, business and legal information to members.
In thanking its staff and directors for their hard work, Co-operatives UK chair Ben Reid said that the organisation played a key role in reminding all its members of the unique identity that unites them and concluded that the Co-operative Movement would be "so much the poorer without it".