Thank you

The May Annual General Meeting seems a long way off, but I would like to thank everyone in the South West who voted in the recent elections.  The national turnout was a very disappointing 3.5%.  I am pleased to say that in the South West the turnout was highest in the country, at 3.9%.  This was still down from 5.2% in the Southwest last year.  So, a lot of work needs to be done.

The report of the AGM can be found here, so I will not comment on it.  Except to say thank you to everyone who voted for me in the election for the SW constituency.  I was delighted to be given a three-year term to continue to represent the members from the SW at the National Members Council.

The July Council was held on another wonderful sunny afternoon.  Members of the Council had our opportunity to question the Directors of the Society on any topic.  Whilst it is difficult to report on everything that is spoken at Council, as some matters are confidential, I think I can outline in broad terms some of the questions asked and some of the replies the Directors gave.

  • NISA.  Sainsbury's and the Co-op are interested in purchasing the wholesaler NISA, with a view of distributing Co-op goods to these independent stores.  The Council member was seeking re-assurance from the Board, that the Co-op undertakes extensive due diligence on NISA. All the Directors gave assurances that if we were successful in buying NISA then they would ensure high levels of due diligence would be undertaken.
  • Digital. The Group has been investing heavily in Digital in recent years. Are the Directors assured that this is value for money for the Co-op?  The Directors pointed out that digital was not a profit centre but an enabler to ensure our products and services were fit for purpose going forward. A good example was how digital has transformed our Wills website to increase the number of sales made when members visit the site.  Have a look at it here, and buy a will!
  • Co-op  Bank.  Given that we had written down our stake in the bank to zero, what were the implications for the Co-op of the recent capital injection?  There are many risks still with the Bank, not least our responsibility to pensioners.  Currently, the Co-op and the Bank pension fund is being split with the Bank taking over their share of the pensions, but the Co-op still has legacy responsibilities and this may impact the Co-op in the future.
  • Food like for like sales were raised.  In recent years, the Co-op has been ahead of the market, but this quarter saw the other chains catch up. The Directors were aware of the need to keep pressing forward with the True North strategy and to push the food business to continue to achieve great results.
  • E-store drivers. The Co-op use DPD to deliver our E-store products.  Was the Board assured that DPD were not employing “gig” workers rather than employees.? The Directors agreed with Council that it was important for our Values and Principles that DPD drivers should have employment protection.
For many years the Co-op held a national half-yearly meeting.  The Board had asked the Council not to hold a half-yearly meeting but instead to have a series 20 regional events.  We felt that one large event per region was not enough and we wanted to pilot more local events. Local events could be held around a store and be supported by Council members and the growing number of member pioneers.The Council agreed to work with  the Board to make this happen.

Pauline Green then addressed the Council on the new National Co-operative Strategy,  developed by Co-ops UK.  This is a strategy to grow the Co-op sector for the future
The strategy can be found here, but in summary, it outlines three steps that will help to grow our sector.

  • Commit to be great at Co-operation.  – Live up to our values and look for ways to collaborate with others, and choose to buy from co-ops
  • Be willing to be open to new co-operation.  Have new conversations and look for new ways to act co-operatively.
  • Join in campaigns for inspiring co-operation.

The strategy is based on self-help and mutual aid.  There are three sectors that desperately need co-op solutions.
  • The gig economy
  • Social care
  • New digital ventures.
We all need to support and push for change. We all need to be proud of our Co-operative model and support co-ops when they challenge the status quo.I will be asking the Board of my local co-operative bookshop to think about how we can take this forward. I would like to hear if you have thoughts on how we can take this forward in your community.

Our afternoon session was a presentation from the Digital team on how they were adding value to the goods and services that we sell. How they were designing with the users in the centre of the system and how they moved quickly from design, to testing to release.  The Co-op is at the forefront of the Digital renaissance in the North West, operating out of the Federation building.  This federation hub is now a breeding ground for new businesses based around co-op values and principles. Have a look for some of their blogs here.

Emily, member of the Youth Board
Finally, we were asked to think about how the Co-op can develop a strategy that supports young people and encourages young people to become involved with the Co-op. There was a lot of interaction, with post it notes flying all around.  As this work progresses I will blog more about this important area, Young people take Co-op values and principles to heart. We just must find a way to engage with the future members of the Society.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog.  Until next time...


  1. In retrospect the pension funding issue wasn't all that bad. I suspect we will look back with regret that SW Society agreed to take the assisted suicide route. Multiple counties is hard enough to democratise accross, but how does the member on the street really get to grips with being one voice in 14.5 million? Much harder to get to the nitty gritty and BE seen to get there, when the audience for anything will always have a natural limit.

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