The Co-operative Group is dishing out a record £17.8m interim dividend to its five million members.

They will receive a share of the dividend based on the amount they spent across the society’s portfolio of businesses in the first half of the year.

The increase, up from £16.9m last year, comes despite the society reporting a 12% drop in profits for the period. However, the society recruited more members over that time.

“At a time when people are tightening their belts, I am sure the interim dividend will be a welcome seasonal boost for our members,” said chief executive Peter Marks.

“However, many have again shown their generosity by donating all, or some, of their payment to good causes, which will make a real difference to many charities and local groups that are doing such great work in the communities we serve.”