Co-operative Group board shake-up; three directors lose seats

Three directors standing for re-election on the Co-operative Group board have lost their seats. In a turbulent 12 months for the Group, which is set to announce its...

Three directors standing for re-election on the Co-operative Group board have lost their seats.

In a turbulent 12 months for the Group, which is set to announce its biggest annual loss next week of more than £2bn, the directors who have been voted off are deputy chair Steven Bayes (north region); Patrick Grange (north west & north midlands) and Liz Moyle (Wales).

Co-operative Group chair Ursula Lidbetter was also re-elected by independent society members, alongside Southern Co-operative chief executive Mark Smith, for two seats on the board, while Channel Islands president Peter Roffey was unsuccessful.

Directors learned of the election results, where polls closed on Monday, on the same day that Lord Myners quit the Group board following resistance over his proposals to re-shape the society’s governance.

Each year, a third of all directors are up for re-election, while other regional board members can also be nominated to stand. There were already two vacancies on the board this year, which gave a total of five seats available. Votes are cast by more than 500 elected members on the Group’s area committees.

New directors on the board are Andrew Donkin (north region), Bob Harber (south east), David Morrow (Scotland & Northern Ireland), Frank Nelson (north west and north midlands) and David Smith (Wales). There were no vacancies on the board for the central & eastern and south & west regions.

Each of the candidates have served between three and 17 years on regional boards, and held memberships with a co-operative society for between nine-50 years.

The Co-operative Group’s democratic structure, which is currently under review, starts at the area committee level where the society’s eight million members have an opportunity to vote for candidates. From there elected members can be elected for one of seven regional boards, and then can stand for election to the main board.

In those initial election statements, which were before the troubles of the past 12 months, candidates spoke about how they practice co-operation and their aspirations for the future of the co-operative.

Andrew Donkin, who is also an employee of the Group, manages a team of 20 managers throughout the country in the food division as technical manager for depots. He said: “I eat, sleep, work and breathe the Co-operative [Group] and co-operation. The recent calamity of the banking crisis has highlighted that there needs to be a rethink of the way that people, communities and organisations work together. The Co-operative needs to be commercially viable yet at the same time has to demonstrate that it and its members have a conscience that is driven by the needs of our society at large.”

While Bob Harber in the south east region said: “Co-operatives are delivering highly regarded, ethically sound, increasingly wide range of services. This is reflected in our very highly trusted brand which is attractive in these uncertain times.”

From Northern Ireland, David Morrow said he has campaigned tirelessly for a greater co-operative presence locally with the opening of new food stores and a new funeral home in the province. He added that he is “determined to promote the co-operative difference”.

Frank Nelson, representing the north west and north midlands region, said: “I want to help our co-operative prosper and, through commercial success, provide a secure co-operative alternative to large shareholder-owned companies interested only in maximising executive bonuses and profits for shareholders.”

Food policy adviser David Smith, from Wales, said there needs to be “real understanding that staff engagement and internal member democracy are essential to [the Group’s] success”. With a “commitment to member participation”, he added that he “supports a dynamic co-operative economy in Wales”.

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