A merger between two of Britain's biggest retail co-operatives, Midlands and Anglia, has been approved by their members.
Midlands Co-operative, the second largest independent retail society, and Anglia, the eighth largest, will together create one of the largest co-ops in the sector, with 329,000 members, over a hundred funeral homes and nearly 250 stores and filling stations across 16 counties.
At Midlands’ meetings in October, members voted on rule amendments which would facilitate ‘transfer of engagements’ from Anglia, along with a new democratic structure. A record turnout of 1,800 voted, with 90 per cent in favour. On 19 November, 100 per cent of Anglia members in attendance voted in favour of transfer to Midlands.
The new society, which will be renamed, will boast a projected gross annual turnover of almost £1 billion.
A spokesperson for both societies said: "Progress is now underway to adopt a new name for the merged society before the end of the year. The new name will reflect the input of colleagues and members and will signal the start of a new and exciting future for both businesses.
"Legal formation of the merger marks the end of months of planning and collaboration between the two societies. The process of integrating the two organisations into one will allow the newly formed business to embark on a new period of opportunity and growth by bringing together the strengths of each society."
Midlands Co-operative rules represent the ‘host’ rules, as Anglia transfers its engagements early in December. Transitional arrangements will enable Anglia to join Midlands’ current structure immediately, until the new structure is introduced in 2014.
Martyn Cheatle, chief executive of Midlands Co-operative, told Co-operative News: “The new structure reflects the needs of the newly merged society and will drive increased member participation in the democratic process and the commitment to strengthen engagement and links with members and local communities. There will be a phased introduction of the new democratic structure over the next 12 months.”
The changes mean Midlands will lose its two-tier board structure in favour of a directly elected board. Traditionally members were elected to its regional boards, from which they were elected to the main board.
The board, at 12, will be smaller than Midlands' current 16 and will include three employee directors. It will have the option to co-opt two independent non-executive directors.
The new society's trading area will comprise three electoral constituencies, based on number of branches and turnover. A membership and community council of 12 locally elected members will represent each constituency.
Mr Cheatle said: “Working together with our trading businesses, the councils will build on the society’s strengths in this important area to provide an even more positive contribution to the lives of members and communities. The work of the councils will incorporate member development, together with education and cultural and recreational activities, in line with our membership and community strategy.”
There will be online and postal voting for members and a new annual election cycle will see board elections at annual general meetings in April-May and membership and community council elections in October, at interim meetings.
John Chillcott, chief executive of Anglia Co-operative, said: “The new democratic structure has been designed to reflect best practice and enhance both societies’ engagement with all stakeholders. Both societies are already consulting employees and members on a new name for their society.
“Martyn will lead the new business going forward as chief executive. The detailed process of bringing the societies together as one has only just begun and it’s business as usual over Christmas and the New Year.”