Report of proceedings of the June National Council

National Council Members Report.

The National Council met over the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of July. It was a very busy weekend!

A number of important elections were held for the post of President, two Vice Presidents and the Senate. The Senate acts as the “executive” committee for the Council, ensuring that urgent day to day business is conducted quickly and efficiently.

After the candidate speeches and round table Q&A sessions, the following members were elected for a three year term.

  • ·         President.                                              Nick Crofts – North West  Region
  • ·         VP – Business                                      Mark Bicknell -  North Region
  • ·         VP– Co-operative Performance            Dan Crowe –  London Region
Interestingly, all three positions are now occupied by men.  This is stark contrast to the interim posts which were filled by three women and one man.  The question that the Council members have to ask is, how can the Group ensure women are fairly represented at senior levels in the Management when we ourselves can not elect women to senior positions? Is it time for more radical action to ensure we have a gender balance?  Please let me know your views.

The Senate elections resulted in a better gender balance, with eight women and seven men being elected, but there was no representation from many regions including the South West.
I would like to say thank you to the interim President and Vice Presidents for all their contributions in setting up the Council since September 2014.


The Council was given an update on the proposals by the Group to change its Pension offer for our colleagues who work for the Group.   These proposals are under consultation with our colleagues at the moment.  The presentation gave the rationale for closing the defined benefit scheme and moving forward with a defined contribution scheme, with an improved contribution from the Group. 

Given the demographic shift towards a longer life:  that the current defined benefit scheme is in deficit, and that the current defined contribution scheme is not as generous as the defined benefit scheme, I think it is right to make these changes.  It is important that the Co-operative Group maintain a high quality pension offer that is affordable today and that does not expose the Group to an open ended commitment in the future.

Local Co-op Groups

Council then turned its attention to the issue of how we engage with our members in our local communities.  Much time and effort has been spent on how we can engage with our members. We agreed to undertake two types of pilots going forward.
  •  Community Pilots
  • Co-operative Local Forums
Both types will involve ensuring members are at the heart of our businesses, where we trade.  Community Pilots will be led by colleagues in the Food and Funeral businesses, whose role will to be to ensure that the businesses are at the forefront of community activity in their local area. They will run and support events in the local community and invite Co-operative members to become active in these efforts.

Co-operative local forums will undertake a similar role, but will be led by local members themselves, and will have a greater link with the wider co-operative movement, especially with elected members on the National Council. 

Our Regional Membership teams will be using their extensive skills and knowledge to provide training and support to these pilots. Regional membership teams have been going through a restructure in recent months, and it is a testament to their professionalism that they are engaged in this important project.  Both pilots will start in September 2015 and these will be evaluated after six months, to learn what works best for both for our members and our communities that we serve.

Holding the Board to account

In my last post, I questioned how the Council would fulfil its constitutional role to hold the Board to account. I was pleased that the Council adopted the following approach that should help to fulfil this role. We agreed that the Council should set up standing committees to allow greater scrutiny of the work of the Board
  • Business Performance Committee
  •  Governance Committee
  •  Ethical and Social Responsibility Committee
The committee structure would allow Council members to undertake deep dives into the work of the Board and allow for more time to hold the Board accountable for its stewardship of the Society. These committees will start work in September 2015 and they will be reporting to Council on a regular basis.  I hope that the Board will recognise that these committees are an important part of our role and ensure that Board members attend the meetings when invited.

The Council reaffirmed a set of regulations that confirm voting rights to members. It was agreed that in order to qualify for a vote in 2016 members must have accrued 250 points on their membership card.  We discussed our concern that in the absence of a Dividend payment, the number of swipes by members were declining, and thus potentially disenfranchising members in the future.  Hopefully our membership pilots will start to yield results and we see membership swipes increasing over time.

Council agreed to the Boards request not to hold a half yearly meeting in November at a central venue, but to hold a series of member events around the country. I will give members more details of these events when they are available.

Board Report

The Council received a summary of the decisions made at the June group Board.  The Board made the following appointments to the Board:
  • Stevie Spring
  • Peter Plumb
  • Simon Burke
The Board also appointed Debbie Adams as the new Group Board Secretary.

Political Donations.

 Following on from the inconclusive vote at the AGM when members voted both for and against political donations, the Board agreed to set up a working group to determine what our relationship should be in future with the Co-operative Party.   I would expect the Council to be fully consulted with over this issue.  

The Board also highlighted the need to review the strategic direction of the Group and for the Council to be fully consulted on this issue.

South West Forum.

During a lull in the proceedings, all of the elected members in the South West got together to discuss about how we can engage with the members we represent in the South West.  We plan to meet up soon and implement further idea. Again if you have any thoughts please drop me a line.

The Council next meets in September, but I will endeavour to post general Co-op news on this blog in the meantime.  

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