Discussions around the reform of the Co-operative Group are starting to reach a close, ahead of a special general meeting in September.
Over the weekend, a special regional board conference was convened to look at the reform proposals and how this would be put into practice. The full rule changes are expected to be published early-mid August.
In an update to members, Group chair Ursula Lidbetter said: “We have been working with pace and energy to co-create coherent, cohesive Co-op reform that will reflect the highest standards of good co-operative governance that can withstand external scrutiny. I would like to thank everyone for their hard work in recent months in getting us to this point. I recognise that it has been tough. We have been creating our reform together and have a coalition of views coming together to form something that works. We all want to build governance that works for us and our society now.”
During the day, co-operative solicitor and governance adviser Ian Snaith discussed how the reform proposals compare with the international co-op sector. Four key elements, according to Mr Snaith, were member voice, member representation, expertise and effective management. He summarised that the proposed governance framework provided members with more power than ever before through one-member-one-vote; the council structure gives substance to member engagement between elections and general meetings; and that anti-demutualisation protection is in place.
Ms Lidbetter added: “Today was about everyone coming together to work through the proposed governance model. Following the opportunity for the regional boards to discuss in detail the principles and structure we held a lively and constructive question and answer session.
“Some of the key issues debated included: balance of power between the council and board, how the council holds the board to account, board composition and funding of council and membership including support for membership and the communities it serves. Other topics raised by the regions included the nominations committee, independent society representation, implementation of values and principles and how the transitional board would work.”
Prior to the meeting, former Group chair Len Wardle sent an email to all regional board members to remind them that they have a responsibility to ensure the organisation “remains true to its core purpose as a co-operative” and that proposals must “reflect the need for meaningful democratic member control”.
The Co-operative Group chair said the propoals are “on track” and she was “encouraged that the overall feeling in the room was one of how important it was to get the decisions right to create a structure that will successfully govern our society for years to come”.
The Group board will meet on 1 August to discuss transitional arrangements and consider the mechanics and precise timing of the special general meeting, which is expected to be in early September. Any changes to the co-operative’s rules, which will include the reform proposals, must be published 21 days prior to the meeting.