Co-operative Party – annual conference motions

At their annual conference in London, Co-operative Party members voted in favour of an emergency motion to offer solidarity and practical support to the Co-operative Women’s Guild. The...

At their annual conference in London, Co-operative Party members voted in favour of an emergency motion to offer solidarity and practical support to the Co-operative Women’s Guild. The guild’s national executive committee has called a special general meeting for 6 October where members will vote on proposals to dissolve it.

Introducing the motion, Labour and Co-operative Councillor Roxanne Ellis highlighted how the Guild had been campaigning for women’s rights since the 1883. In her town of Nottingham the guild set up the first fertility clinic. The motion, which was supported by the party’s national executive committee, was carried after a number of delegates expressed support for the guild. Kat Rose, the outgoing chair of the Party’s Youth Committee thinks the history of the Guild is very important but so is its potential for the future. She explained how women from outside the co-operative movement might want to joint the Guild. “What better way than to encourage women to join and introduce them to the movement?” she commented.

The conference also carried an emergency motion calling on representatives in both houses to prioritise working together to overturn government policies. The motion, moved by Colin Bastin of Tower Hamlets Co-operative Party, asked delegates to get involved in the new policy process, “working co-operatively for a Labour victory”.

Two organisational motions were also discussed at the annual conference. The first motion requested the NEC to open negotiations with the Labour Party with a view of securing a mechanism for ordinary members of both parties to influence policies and actions of local Combined Authorities. This motion, which was submitted for consideration by the North East & North Cumbria Co-operative Party, received the NEC’s support and was carried.

The second motion introduced by South Wales Co-operative Party called for reassessing the membership fees. Presenting the motion, Sylvia Jones, a treasurer for the local party council, said the increase in the price of the membership fee had resulted in membership loss for the Aberdare Branch of the South Wales Party. She suggested a reduction in the standard membership fee for waged to £25 (from the current rate of £33), the introduction of a concessionary membership fee for unwaged and retired of £10 and an introductory membership fee for new members for the first year of membership of £5.

An amendment by Central England Anglia Co-operative Party asked for reducing concessionary membership fee from £20 to £10 per year. Another amendment by Bristol Co-operative Party called for a freeze in the current membership fees for three years. “Those who can pay more should pay more and those who can’t shouldn’t,” said Kat Rose. The NEC suggested rejecting the South Wales motion.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Jenny Barnes, council member at the Co-operative Group, said that reducing membership fees could send a dangerous message to the Group. “If people aren’t prepared to put in money and have economic participation, which is fundamental to the co-operative movement, then it will be much more difficult for your friends on the members’ council to say ‘We’re in it together’,” she commented. The motion and the associated amendments fell.

Delegates also voted for the election of two members on the Conference Arrangements Committee. Peter Smith of the North East and Cumbria region was elected for a three-year term and Sabina Shahzad from the London region was elected for a one-year term.

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