National Members Council May 2015 - Reflections

The AGM was followed by my first Council meeting, after I was elected for a two year term, by members in the South West.

The good news is that we have a fully functioning Council representing all sectors of the Co-operative Movement. We welcomed 15 members from the Independent Co-operative Societies, and 35 new members to the Council.  The remaining 43 Council members had previously sat on the Transitional Council, and had either qualified as a continuity member or were re-elected by the members.

The Council will at its next meeting look to Co-opt 7 members on the basis of increasing representation from three important sections of our Movement. Young Members, Black and Minority Ethic members and Working Colleagues.

The challenge for the Council in the next six months is how to organise its meetings to ensure that we can hold our Board to account. It is refreshing that the Chief Executive and senior Executives brief the Council on Business performance, and it was good to hear the progress our three big businesses are making in challenging markets.  Achieving or surpassing budgets is important and I expect the Board to hold the Executives to account for this. The question is what measures should the Council hold the Board to account on?  Clearly business performance is one area, another is ensuring that Remuneration and the T&C s for all colleagues are fair and reasonable.  The Co-operative Group plays a dominant role in the Co-operative Movement and I would expect to see the Board exercise it role in a Co-operative fashion that supports the entire Movement. 

I will return to holding the Board to account in later blogs.

As the first meeting of the newly elected National Members Council, we spent a lot of time on processes and procedures.  It is important to get these right first time and a lot of time and effort was spent ensuring these essential foundations where properly in place.  My hope is that the next meeting concentrates on the bigger picture of holding the Board to account. .

We agreed the mechanisms to elect the President, Vice Presidents and the Senate.  These are important roles within the Council and it is expected that the new positions will be elected from Council members in July. The Council was keen to ensure that the Senate moved towards gender balance, but there were concerns that imposing a quota would be illegal under the Equality Act.  We sought Legal advice on whether quotas would be legal and the initial advice was that it would not be.  Given that I know many organisations that do prescribe a gender balance in their organisation, the Council agreed to seek further legal advice on how these organisations manage to avoid a legal challenge.

Finally the meeting discussed the Co-operative Local Forums. These are the groups that individual members in their local community can join and participate within.  The Board and the Council are jointly trialling approximately fifty groups nationwide, to ascertain the most effect way of interacting with our members, our colleagues in our stores and the wider community.  The Council will be involved closely with these pilots, for which there will be a full evaluation after six months, which should be early in the New Year.
We hope that these forums will then be rolled out across the County in 2016.  I am keen to ensure that there is not a fixed structure for these groups.   Geography and demographics vary around the Country and so should the composition and structures of our CLFs.


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