At the time when the Co-operative Group is faced with serious challenges, maintaining its values and principles is key to overcoming the tough economic climate, said Herbert Daybell, Chair of the Values and Principles (V&P) Board.
He explained the rationale for the new V&P structure, which until a few months ago was a committee made up of the regions, was creating better engagement in regions, while enabling a strategic alignment of decision-making. The V&P Board is now made up of Co-operative Group Board members.
“Funding is clearly a particular issue we have to face up to. We have to be realistic and understand that we are in a very different position than we were. We are going through the most testing times any of us have imagined,” said Mr Daybell.
The new board, made up of eight directors appointed by and from the Group Board, will focus on guaranteeing equal rights, representation and weight throughout the Group’s structure. According to Mr Daybell, the board will continue to work closely with the Co-operative Foundation, helping it to develop various projects, including Truth about Youth, Street Games and the Co-operative Youth Film Academy.
He invited regions to engage in these initiatives by forming new partnerships, and providing feedback to trustees on the foundation’s activities. “We could do better to publicise the work we are doing”, he said.
Following a brief description of the main attributions of the new V&P Board, members split into groups according to their region and were asked to discuss the top three priorities for their regional V&P committees.
One key priority suggested by members was establishing an independent ethics committee on the Bank. Delegates also emphasised on the importance of ensuring that every elected member was aware of the co-operative values and principles.
To achieve more diversity, some members suggested working with some external agencies with support from representatives from the Group. Delegates from North Wales were concerned that directors have to attend area committee meetings, regional board meetings and regional V&P events. They argued the workload might determine some members not to get involved, leading to a problem of diversity.
In response, Russell Gill, Head of Membership and Social Goals, said the Group needed to examine the demand placed on elected members, establishing priorities. He argued the issue was not concerning just the V&P committees, but other committees as well. National Democratic Services Manager, Karen Frogatt, suggested the area committee took over some of the responsibilities of the regional V&P committees, when necessary.