Government: Moving the sector towards a level playing field

Following an international effort to ensure that co-operatives are given a level playing field with other models of business, 2014 was a year of government action to help...

Following an international effort to ensure that co-operatives are given a level playing field with other models of business, 2014 was a year of government action to help the sector.

Initially led Dame Pauline Green in her 2012 speech at the United Nations, the campaign for more equality for the co-operative business model has been taken up by sector bodies across the country.

FEBRUARY: Independent commission advocates a stronger co-op economy in Wales
The development of co-ops must be central to transforming Wales’ economic fortunes, said a report on the future of the sector in the country. Two years ago, the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission was formed to make recommendations on a plan to grow and develop the co-op and mutual economy in Wales. Its main conclusion found that conventional approaches to economic growth and development are not sufficient to strengthen social and economic well-being in Wales.

APRIL: Councils in Edinburgh and Glasgow move towards co-operative status
Edinburgh City Council is making “good progress” on its drive to become a co-operative capital. It signed a memorandum of understanding with Edinburgh Community Solar Co-op to generate community solar energy on the roofs of some of its buildings. Glasgow City Council was also on track to gain co-op status, having established a development unit to promote the expansion of co-ops, mutuals and social enterprises, and to provide advice and support on developing co-operative business models.

AUGUST: Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act
Laws that govern UK co-ops were simplified following the implementation of the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act from 1 August. The consolidated act brought together 17 different pieces of legislation that date back to 1965. It included a legal name change for the business model to ‘co-operative society’, as opposed to ‘industrial and provident society’. The option is open to bona fide co-ops, while community benefit society registrants will show the business is being run for the benefit of the community.



Ed Mayo
Ed Mayo

Ed Mayo thanked the coalition for sticking to its promise to create a single act for co-operatives.

He said: “This landmark act brings together long-dated, overly complex legislation into one unified statute, making it easier than ever to set up
a co-operative enterprise.

“There’s still more to be done, however, and we have an ambitious agenda for how the next government can keep the co-operative momentum moving.”

Derek Walker
Derek Walker

In Wales, Derek Walker, chief executive of Wales Co-operative Centre, said the most “far-reaching” news of the year was the publication the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report. “The Commission report is important because its recommendations place co-operative principles as essential tenets in areas such as education, the economy, procurement and planning,” he said. “A major change has been the inclusion of a statutory responsibility, placed on local authorities to consider social enterprises and co-operatives for the delivery of social care under the new Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Act.”

Karin Christiansen
Karin Christiansen

Karin Christiansen, general secretary of the Co-operative Party, said the Labour Party had endorsed its plan for a people’s railway, as well as mutual approaches to childcare, housing, health and transport. But she said even in opposition, the party has had success with the coalition government.

“We’ve had some real wins,” she said. “For example, the announcement that the government will work with credit unions to facilitate an armed forces credit union.

“We’ve also been lobbying the government to recognise the co-operative legal status of co-op schools.

“In government in Wales, we’re seeing what a Co-operative government can do in power – and the recommendations of the Co-operative & Mutuals Commission in Wales really set out a marker for that.”

Sarah Deas
Sarah Deas

Sarah Deas said her highlight of the year, on a local level, was seeing two of Scotland’s biggest city councils, Glasgow and Edinburgh, progress their commitment to become co-operative councils.

She added: “This is a
significant endorsement of
co-operative working, which CDS is supporting through provision
of specialist advice.”

James Graham
James Graham

James Graham, chief executive of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society, welcomed the new consolidated act, but nationally in the Scottish Parliament he expressed relief that Richard Lochhead continued in his role of cabinet secretary for environment and rural affairs. “He is a strong supporter of agricultural co-ops and it’s good to have that continuity while extra powers for Scotland are debated and devolved,” he said.

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