The Co-operative Group is facing a date with destiny today (17 May) as its elected members prepare for one of the most crucial votes in the society’s 150-year history.
Members will cast their vote on a four-point resolution on governance reform, based on the recommendations made by Lord Paul Myners in his recent review, at the society’s agm, to be held at its HQ in Manchester.
The resolution calls for the creation of a board of elected directors individually and collectively qualified to lead an organisation of the size and complexity of The Co-op Group; a structure that gives The Co-op Group’s members powers to hold the board properly to account; a move to the concept of ‘one member one vote’ with appropriate representation for independent Co-op societies; and to include necessary provisions to protect against de-mutualisation.
One senior Co-op insider said it was impossible to predict which way the vote would go. “This is about a chance to reset the Co-op for the next 150 years.
“It’s vitally important we get that and by no means assured we will, but we have been working hard, meeting regional boards, and doing our best to ensure it goes the right way.”
The Myners report was initially met with resistance by the movement, including from Midcounties Co-op, the biggest regional society. However, this week Midcounties confirmed it was backing the reforms following lobbying by Co-op Group insiders, and modifications to the proposals.
The insider also suggested that the results of the society’s Have Your Say poll, launched in February by the society to find out member, staff and customer views on its future, which were due to be revealed at the agm, had been delayed until “early summer”.
Other issues on the agenda at the agm include a motion by the Scotland and Northern Ireland region for elected members to voluntarily accept a 10% cut in fees; a motion by the Central and Eastern region to stop pay increases in pay that widen the gap between the executive and staff; and a similar motion by the North region to make savings in corporate overheads.
The Central and Eastern region have also called for the society to adopt “a more responsive approach to local needs”, while the Wales region has called for a “commitment to genuine local sourcing”.