One of the challenges facing the co-operative movement is supporting elected members to confidently and competently hold their executives to account. Employees have protection from Employment Law, access to trade unions, legal advice and support. Lay representatives do not and are, fundamentally, on their own. About five years ago, I had a high level meeting with Treasury officials at the time of the Review into Co-operative and Credit Union legislation. Many of the ideas below were presented to them and are detailed in my book, ‘Co-ops and Mutuals: Armageddon or Watershed?’
- An independent regulatory body for members to complain to (e.g. FSA)
- An independent appeals tribunal (similar to those for employees)
- An equivalent body to a trade union that lay members could belong to give independent support. The membership fees to be paid for by the co-operative they represent
- Full whistle blowing rights, similar to those afforded to staff and a set of guidelines on confidentiality and an independent committee to adjudge what should be kept confidential is needed
- The creation of a code of best practice and retraining where necessary to create an open and member focused culture within co-operatives.