The Co-operative Group’s chair, Ursula Lidbetter, has confirmed she will step down following the appointment of an independent chair to the board.
Announcing the Group’s changes for governance reform, Ms Lidbetter said the reform was “focused on creating an organisation where every member has a voice in shaping the Group’s future”.
As well as an independent chair, the new board will include five independent non-executive directors, two executive directors, including the chief executive and three members nominated directors, following approval by members.
According to Ms Lidbetter, one difference between these changes and the reforms proposed by Lord Myners is the presence of three member-nominated directors on the Group’s board. The former City minister had proposed a completely independent board.
She added that all board members, whether appointed or elected, would go through a vetting process to make sure they have the competency required to run an organisation of the Group’s the size and complexity.
“The previous system didn’t vet for competence. The previous system came through a committee structure. There wasn’t a competence bar at all,” she said.
The nominations committee will be advised by a search firm throughout the selection process, added interim chief executive, Richard Pennycook.
Ms Lidbetter thinks the proposed reforms will put membership back at heart of society. And while she said the move to the one-member-one-vote was very important in empowering members, she highlighted that the next phase of engagement was “the most exciting”.
Changes will consist of developing the culture, structure and activities that would really engage their members in their communities. Ms Lidbetter also revealed that the transitional board of nine directors would include herself and the current chairs of the Group’s main committees.
Mr Pennycook, who was the Group’s chief operating officer, was asked to step up earlier this year after Euan Sutherland’s resignation. In a media conference call, he confirmed he will return to his permanent position of chief operating officer once a new chief executive is appointed.