Six member-nominated directors were put forward for election by the Group’s members council, for three seats on the Group board. The transitional search committee decided to put forward only three of the six for ballot at the Group’s annual meeting in May. Allan Leighton, who was appointed chair of the group in February, responds to concerns over the elections process.
It’s time for straight talking not politicking. The Co-op nearly died because people almost killed it!
This can never happen again, almost £3bn of members’ assets have been destroyed, and the dividend so dear to co-op families shelved. The Co-op first and foremost was a trading organisation focused on its members as a whole. It nearly died because the focus was virtually on everything but its members.
My Dad used to say to me “if your shop sales are increasing, that’s the measure of how you are looking after your members – if they are buying more you are doing things right”.
The things that nearly killed it were a combination of a lack of commercial acumen, lack of accountability, and no focus on the membership in its widest sense – the 8.4 million as opposed to those with a vested self-interest. In addition, confidential matters were leaked directly from the boardroom to undermine the very people trying to prevent the death. We have in recent years not been co-operative – we have been un-co-operative.
My role as the independent chairman is to create a board that has commercial acumen, accountability and the eclectic mix that is the Co-op, something I feel I understand as much as anyone. I was brought up inside a Co-op family, with all its values. We were inside the movement, not observers on the outside.
The board has been absolutely clear and consistent throughout the reform process about the need for member nominated directors (MNDs) to demonstrate a high level of skills and experience and we make no apology for wanting this.
I believe fundamentally in MNDs and it is great that three high-calibre candidates have emerged – not three picked so three slots could be conveniently filled as described by others, but selected because they are fit for purpose.
We need members who can provide fresh member thinking, not necessarily fresh member faces, to help propel our business forward. If there had only been two capable, only two would have been put forward. If there had been four, the same.
We should be applauding this result, not politicking over it. The process was not to find a random number of candidates for members to select from, it was to put forward people who could really do the role, create the right mix of skills and experience and then ask members to select them or not. That way we really are taking care of members’ money and the movement.
We are committed to real democracy that will help our co-operative to flourish, to once again be the envy of the co-operative world, as it was when Graham Melmoth was the CEO, a leader I deeply respect, and to whom I listen. But we cannot do this by repeating the sins of our past. It’s time to go back to the future with modernity.
- Read further responses to the member-nominated directors elections process from Sir Graham Melmoth, former Group CEO, and Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance.