Last year was a difficult one for the Co-operative Party, which had to absorb a 20% cut in its subscription from the Co-operative Group. Presenting the annual report, Karin Christiansen, the outgoing general secretary of the Party, said the whole movement’s confidence had been affected by the crisis at the Group.
The Party made efficiency savings, including £32,600 per year from a recruitment freeze and £6,300 per year from closing its office in Wales. Further savings were made by reducing its printing and postage bill by £23,000 and placing a stronger emphasis on engagement via social media and email. The Party has also made £10,400 savings in its travel budget, while accountancy and IT support services we brought in-house, saving another £14,000. Overall, the organisation has made efficiency savings of £86,000 per year. The party expects to save a further £20,000 in 2015 by moving offices from London Bridge to Farringdon and reducing staff time.
Ms Christiansen said the organisation had also started to build its membership offer. Diversity in new members is also greater, with 30% of them women, as opposed to only 10% in previous years. Among the new organisations joining the party were Enabled Works, a worker co-operative from Leeds and Revolver Co-operative, which markets Fairtrade-certified coffee and organic cotton goods.
The organisation started building on the membership offer with a new web-based membership database – “My Co-operative Party”. New members now receive their card within two weeks as opposed to 4-6 weeks.
The switch to direct debit has resulted in a bank transaction charge of £4,258, but overall, the move has been a success, said Ms Christiansen. She added the party had also had discussions with non-affiliated societies to make the case for subscription.
With an income of £1.063m and an expenditure of £1.005m, the party ended the year with a surplus of £57,884.
2015 was marked by the Keep it Co-op campaign which the Co-operative Party started in January, calling on the Co-operative Group to continue to financially support the Co-operative Party. At its annual meeting in May, the Group’s members voted in favour of continuing the society’s subscription to the Co-operative Party. The campaign attracted great levels of support from trade unions, as well as significant media coverage, said Ms Christiansen. She added there was an urgent need for the Party to increase income from individual members, and it was essential to continue this trajectory by keeping the subscription rate at 2015 levels.
“Monthly payments make subscription more affordable,” she said. One thousand new members are expected to join by the end of the year, the largest annual increase witnessed by the organisation in recent years.
“This party is what it is because of you. My big reflection on the co-operative movement is that it is fragile, weak, and not delivering what it can do. There is a real, profound opportunity now. We have to turn this crisis into an opportunity for renewal and regeneration. Part of our job right now is to rejuvenate the movement,” she concluded.