Co-operatives help to narrow UK poverty gap

An alliance of co-operatives and non-governmental organisations have launched a petition calling for co-operative action to narrow the gap between rich and the poor in the UK.

With the gap at its widest since records began, the petition is calling for a national debate on narrowing the gap through action to share ownership and wealth in a co-operative way. 

Over 25 prominent organisations are supporting the petition, including Friends of the Earth, National Union of Students, Mother’s Union, Groundwork, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the National Childbirth Trust and the Equality Trust. 

The petition — which aims to attract at least 100,000 signatories — was launched outside the Bank of England by leading Co-op Movement figures including Len Wardle, Chair of the Co-operative Group; Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK; Mervyn Wilson, Principal of the Co-operative College; and representatives from the sector and from NGOs. 

The petition, which will be presented to the Government during Co-operatives Fortnight (June 25th to July 9th) can be signed and shared at:

Said Mr Wardle: “The Group is very well aware of differences in peoples’ income and the impact that has on everyday lives. 

“Our recently-launched Ethical Plan ensures that ten per cent of our profits available for distribution will be put into community investment by 2013 with £5million specifically used each year to tackle UK poverty around our outlets — a clear indication of the difference co-operatives can make to this issue.” 

Mr Mayo added: “Evidence shows a growing gap between rich and poor in the UK. The richest ten per cent of the UK now has 100 times the wealth of the poorest ten per cent. 

“This petition — which I think of as the ‘spirit level’ petition following the groundbreaking work of the Equality Trust — aims to trigger action to promote measures that will narrow the gap between rich and poor. As businesses that share profits, ownership and wealth, co-operatives are the perfect way to create a fairer economy.”

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