So while all the remaining 25 motions were carried overwhelmingly and will now be presented as a package to be approved at an SGM to be held in conjunction with the Group’s Half-Yearly meeting in Manchester in October, the choice of retaining the age rule for Group Board members or introducing a three term limit on holding office looks set to be the subject of a separate vote and debate.
The News understands that although the majority in favour of ending the age rule at Birmingham was marginally over the two-thirds figure required to trigger a rule change at 66.97 per cent, it fell short of the whole-hearted endorsement hoped for.
Among those in favour of retaining the age rule as a means of refreshing democratic structures by ‘freeing up’ area committee, regional board and main board places were representatives of the former United Society and some independents.
The motion calling for the end of the age limit, while at the same time recognising that no Group director should be able to serve more than three consecutive terms in office, was carried by 118,506 votes to 58,455 and, following the Constitutional Review Committee’s report, the issue will now be settled in October.
Co-operatives UK’s Code of Governance Best Practice states that procedures should be in place to ensure the regular renewal of the Board and that this can be achieved by either an age rule or a mandatory break in service after three terms in office.
The meeting voted heavily in favour of the Group’s proposal for seven regions, namely: Scotland & Northern Ireland; Yorkshire & North East; North West; Central & Eastern; Wales; South West & West Midlands and South East, though the precise names are subject to further consultation and may be changed by agreement between the Group Board and the relevant regional board.
The SGM also agreed that the Group Board should be reduced in size and have a total of 20 directors; five from the independent societies and 15 seats to be held by regional representatives as follows: Yorks & North East and North West, three each; Wales one; and the remaining regions two each.
In addition to the 20 elected directors, the Board will be able to appoint up to three independent professional non-executive directors from next spring.
And in a move aimed at recognising the size and complexity of the expanding Group — and to improve governance — two new subsidiary boards will be established in addition to the CFS board.
One of the new boards will oversee the society’s food business, while the other will consider issues relating to other trading businesses.
• Further coverage of the Birmingham SGM will be in the next Inside Track supplement in the September 16th edition of the News.