South Caernarfon Creameries Co-operative

In July IPMS dairy bulletin highlighted the news that South Caernarfon Creameries Co-op has announced this is the ‘best year ever’

South Caernarfon Creameries (SCC), set up over 80 years ago, is Wales’s only farmer-owned dairy co-operative. It has worked on the same site near Pwllheli, and has 134 members located in North Wales, Mid Wales and Ceredigion.

Its farmers work together, have a say in their future and that of the Creamery and also own a share in the company.

SCC uses only locally sourced milk, grazed in Welsh pastures which has dual language on all packaging and a successful brand of cheese and butter called ‘Dragon’.

With a healthy operating margin of 5.6% the Co-op has decided to distribute 23.5% of its profits to its 136 farmer-supplier members in the form of a bonus.

A Sainsburys delegation inspects SCC’s Cavern Aged Cheddar at Llechwedd

Co-operative Societies operate for the benefit of their members and reinvest profits in the business, distributing any surplus to members (government guide).

In 2016, SCC invested in a new state-of-the-art production and packing plant where their range of cheeses is matured, cut and packaged for the UK and the international market as well as supermarkets, village and corner shops across Wales. Re-investment continued this year with SCC investing £2.2m into its facilities during the year.

Business Live reports that a three-year £14.4m SSC expansion expected to increase cheese production by 50% and create 30 new jobs by 2024 has been awarded a £5m grant from the Welsh Government Food Business Investment Scheme.

SCC contact details https://www.welshcountry.co.uk/south-caernarfon-creameries/

 

 

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The Co-operative Bank seeks a fairer deal for women

The Co-operative Bank has one of the lowest gender pay gaps among British banks on the British high street. All the banks have a huge discrepancy in the average hourly pay rates for men and women, with women earning a median figure of 22.6% less than men. (The median is the middle figure when the hourly rates of all staff are listed in ascending order.) The big high street banks all do worse – see the table below.

Data from Business Insider and the UK government’s website

HM Treasury Women in Finance: Charter commitment progress update and Gender Pay Gap Reporting 2020 by Nick Slape, the Co-operative Bank’s Chief Executive Officer:

“Our target was to increase female representation in our senior leadership from 32% to 40% by 2020 and I am pleased to report we now have 42% women in senior roles at our Bank. Like many financial services firms, our Bank employs more women than men and a higher proportion of women than men in our customer facing roles which influences our gender pay gap.

“We are confident that in the long term, our focused work on gender inclusion and balance at all levels will result in our gender pay gap narrowing. I confirm the Gender Pay Gap Reporting data in this document to be accurate.”

 

 

 

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ICC helped Clapton Community Football Club to buy its ground

ICOF Community Capital Ltd (ICC) is an investment society offering individuals and organisations withdrawable membership shares. Its capital is used to provide loan finance to a wide range of community businesses, social enterprises and co- operatives.

It supports the growing number of UK communities taking control and delivering local solutions to meet local needs, for example:

  • saving their local pub or shop
  • re-opening the local swimming baths
  • creating employment for people with disabilities
  • providing affordable housing solutions

During the year ICC helped Clapton Football Club, who play  In 1888 Clapton FC – the oldest senior football ground in London – began playing at the ground which took its name from this derelict pub – the Old Spotted Dog in Upton Lane near Forest Gate station which was also ‘rescued’ last year.

Over 80 years ago, Clapton were one of England’s most powerful amateur sides, winning the prestigious F.A. Amateur Cup five times.

Clapton Community FC was established in June 2018 as a fan-owned and fan- operated community club, by the life members and supporters of Clapton FC. It now has over 1,300 members worldwide. ICC investment helped supporters to purchase their ground and secure its future as permanent community asset of Forest Gate in East London.

Clapton Community Football Club completed the purchase of the historic Old Spotted Dog Ground on 24 July 2020, following a long campaign by the fans to regain their home. A very detailed account of the transaction may be read here.

 

 

 

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Community energy in Grimsby: reskilled locals make onshored renewable energy components

“No progressive social action can effectively advance its cause without explicitly expressing the concerns of ‘the left behind’, including those who may very well become left behind in the future because of an accelerated transition out of fossil fuels” (Jonathon Porritt, Hope in Hell).

People in North Yorkshire’s coastal areas gradually leave oil-related industries to work in the renewable energy sector

Melanie Onn (above) points out – in the Financial Times – that the offshore wind industry is bringing significant industrial benefits to the UK with factories and supply chain companies in coastal communities around the country.

Melanie, the Deputy Chief Executive of London-based Renewable UK, saw this at first hand as the MP representing communities in Grimsby, which offshore wind is helping to transform by offering reskilling and employment opportunities:

  • manufacturing massive offshore wind turbine blades,
  • manufacturing cables,
  • laying foundations,
  • and providing boats and crews,
  • construction teams,
  • and turbine technicians.

As Sebastian Payne pointed out in an earlier FT article: “A shift to green industry is not only essential for the obvious priority of saving the planet from irreversible global warming; it can also provide exactly what the struggling towns of England have been yearning — and voting — for: prosperity. Even voters who are sceptical of environmentalism can buy into green policies if they are convinced they will achieve that goal”.

 

 

 

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Biocoop, a good employer, selling only in-season produce

                                             one of many stores

Biocoop, a French retailer specialising in organic foods, was founded as a co-operative in 1986 by consumers in order to promote more environmentally friendly agriculture.

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Leila Abboud writes that it was founded in a “garage” by ampaigners who wanted to encourage France’s farmers to adopt organic practices: “Back then, each square metre of a Biocoop store would help convert a hectare of farm land to organic production,” said Biocoop chairman Pierrick De Ronne(left).

Leila adds that the co-operative’s respect for diversity has ‘placed it at the top of the FT’s second annual Diversity Leaders ranking’.

Biocoop is operated and guided by its members, which include store owners, roughly 3,200 participating farmers and about 500 of its workers – details here. Read more about the co-operative’s history here.

Each year the co-operative sets specifications for its 650 member stores in terms of how staff are paid and treated. These include

  • paying salaries at least 10% more than minimum wage,
  • equal pay for men and women and the same opportunities to advance,
  • offering profit-sharing schemes,
  • and setting schedules relatively far in advance to help staff manage work-life balance. 

Biocoop has a mentoring programme and prioritises the hiring of people from poor, urban neighbourhoods that are often home to generations of immigrants of Arab and African descent. It has set a goal to employ 6% disabled people by 2023, up from 3% in 2019.

Some British worker co-operatives could advise here

Sometimes Biocoop employees can be disappointed by the daily grind of working a cash register or restocking shelves. “Their dreams clash with the at-times boring reality,” Mr De Ronne admits. “So it’s up to managers and co-op owners to find ways to make the daily work more meaningful.”  

Job rotation would help. A hard stint outdoors in the morning, balanced by a less arduous indoor job in packing and admin in the afternoon is one of the practices which enable Martin Mackey to keep local employees on Ripple Farm in Kent, unlike those farmers who have to rely on immigrant labour.

At Unicorn Grocery, in south Manchester, members learn a range of core tasks – working the till, packing, cleaning – and then two, or sometimes three, people are trained in specialist roles, so there is back-up when needed.

And Britain as a whole should learn from Biocoop’s sustainable selling policy: Biocoop will sometimes “give up revenue to defend an ideal such as consuming less but better”, adds Mr De Ronne. The chain has committed to selling only in-season produce — no tomatoes in winter, for example — and banning produce flown in by aeroplane.

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Co-operatives: A Better – More Co-operative – World is Possible

 

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Many closed pubs have reopened as co-operatives. The Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket, said to be Britain’s first cooperative pub, is co-owned by over 100 local people and has an onsite brewery. Read more here.

Mary Holmes was unfamiliar with the sector until she was commissioned to update the database of ICOM supported worker co-operatives – now part of Co-operatives UK. She set out the advantages of the worker co-operative structure – very different from top-down management of most retail co-ops (see this site passim) – in this informal feedback.  

The writer decided to revisit the listed worker co-ops but after searching for Cumbrian Farmers – the first entry – got completely side-tracked by an article in the Times and Star – a weekly published in Workington, covering West Cumbria.

The highest ratio of co-operative businesses to people in England

It stated that two local authority districts in Cumbria – Eden and Allerdale – have the highest ratio of co-operative businesses to people in England. The sector includes community energy organisations, farming co-ops, housing associations, community-owned pubs and shops, credit unions and sports clubs. Below are brief vignettes of worker co-operatives in Cumbria with an online presence.

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VistaVeg is a small vegetable grower’s co-operative in the rural village of Crosby Ravensworth in Eden. It grows high quality, responsibly grown vegetables year-round distributed through a veg box scheme which currently feeds 175 families within a 12-mile radius of our fields & polytunnel sites. Read more here.

The Butchers Arms, in Crosby Ravensworth, near Penrith was reopened by a group of local people who invested funds to buy the property, which has been renovated with the help of volunteers. Cameron Smith, treasurer of the new co-operative, said, “Our aim has always been quite simple, to buy, refurbish and re-open a traditional Cumbrian pub that will source locally and support the local community and economy wherever possible, selling good quality food, real ales and offering a warm welcome to all.”

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Cumbria-based wool workers using yarn & goods from local wool are members of the Wool Clip.  Above: the thriving Wool Clip shop in Caldbeck

The Cumbria Farmer Network is an agricultural co-operative based in Penrith, run by farmers for farmers. It was created during times of hardship in the years following the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001 to provide help and support to farmers.

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The Baywind Co-operative’s aim is to promote the generation of renewable energy and energy conservation. To date, members have received a competitive return on their investment from the sale of electricity. To encourage more community owned wind farms, Baywind has formed a development company, Energy4All Ltd. Click here to read more . . .

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Community ownership

Energy4all office is based in Barrow-in-Furness and owned by the co-operatives it assists, providing a package of sector, admin, and financial services to co-ops country-wide in return for an annual fee. These co-ops have been created to enable individuals to do something practical about climate change and to create and own some ‘green’ generating capacity.

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Edgars Garage Cumbrian Co-operative, repair and programming of electronic engine control units, dealer level engine diagnostics.

Gritstone Publishing is the first author-run co-operative publisher in the country. It specialises in publishing non-fiction and fiction titles relating to the countryside. Its seven members are experienced outdoor writers and journalists who established Gritstone as a co-operative to exercise more control over the way their work is published.

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SDC’s cost-conscious, sustainable building project in Stirchley

Stirchley Co-operative Development (SCD), a group of local people in housing and worker co-operatives, is a co-op but not affiliated with “The Co-op” supermarket chain.

SCD is planning to build affordable and eco-friendly residential and retail premises in the heart of Stirchley on the corner of Hunts Road and Pershore Road to the right of the British Oak pub with Accord, a housing association with a track record of building cost-conscious flatpack houses that meet the Code for Sustainable Homes. After positive early talks with Seven Capital the group decided that the derelict land on the corner of Hunts Rd and Pershore Rd would make a suitable site for their project, which will not be part of Seven Capital’s development around Hazelwell Lane.

Chris Tomlinson of Birmingham Bike Foundry (BBF), an SDC member, spoke about the development at a meeting of the Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum some time ago.

He outlined plans for 30 residential units of a variety of sizes and 3 retail units built to high environmental standards. The development would be up to 3 storeys with some accessible residential units on the ground floor. All residents would be members of the co-operative and the retail units would be aimed at co-operative businesses, possibly relocating some local co-operatives on to the site.

In January Inside Media reported a council document published ahead of the meeting said: “It is considered that the proposal maintains the character and appearance of the area and has no adverse impact on the setting of a listed building”- a reference to The British Oak.

The development plan received the Council’s approval on 21 January (c) Stirchley Co-operative Development

Anca Voinea reported that the proposal was approved by Birmingham City Council on 21 January and Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, commented: “This is a refreshing change from the normal profit led developments by companies whose shareholders have no interest in Stirchley.”

SCD is now negotiating the purchase of land from Seven Capital.

 

 

 

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Understanding Co-ops – Some Basics

 

The ILO’s Cooperatives Unit marked its Centenary in 2020. On this occasion, the ILO COOP 100 Interview series featured past and present ILO colleagues and key partners who were closely engaged in the ILO’s work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE).

Edgar Parnell was invited to contribute to the Centenary series and in May (2020) he took part in a videoed interview. This, and the transcript giving an account of his remarkable experiences, may be seen here.

Edgar has issued new learning materials about how to run genuine co-ops and other enterprises rooted in self-help and mutual action.

Edgar considers this week’s video Culture is Crucial in Co-ops to be one of the most significant in the series.

There will be more than a dozen videos in this series, starting with Understanding Co-ops – Some Basics. If you wish to see all the videos in this series, which are free to use for educational and similar purposes, they are available at  https://vimeo.com/showcase/7221973, on YouTube and via Edgar’s website Co-opPundit.org

 

 

 

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Co-op Bank resumes independent audit

In a statement to the Customer Union this week, the bank has said that it will commission an independent audit of its ethical policy report.

The bank’s Ethical Policy, and its commitment not to finance businesses that don’t fit with its customers’ ethical values, is the main reason many of us have stayed loyal to the Co-operative Bank. Knowing that external auditors are making sure the bank sticks to this policy is a fundamental reason we can trust the bank to keep our money out of companies involved in cruel intensive farming, out of arms traders supporting oppressive regimes, and out of the fossil fuels driving climate change coal and oil.

But for the last two years these ethical audits haven’t happened.

Jonathon Porritt, the author, environmentalist and founder of Forum for the Future, wrote a commentary to the bank’s Sustainability Reports for many years, tweets:

 

 

 

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The Customer Union’s latest news about the Co-operative Bank

Extracts from the December newsletter from the Customer Union for Ethical Banking, the independent union for customers of The Co-operative Bank.

In order to meet stronger capital requirements from the Bank of England – MREL, “Minimum Requirement for own funds and Eligible Liabilities” – the bank has successfully raised £200 million capital by paying a 9% rate of return to investors

Customer Union director Shaun Fensom gave a wide-ranging interview on the Save Our Bank campaign and Customer Union to Low Impact – which describes itself as “probably the world’s best sustainable living resource; connecting lifestyle and system change”. Watch or read the interview here.

Save Our Bank’s 2020 Gathering, 21 November

Amid the worsening Covid crisis, the union was forced to hold its Gathering remotely via Zoom this year, and as a result it was the best-attended meeting ever held, with some 60 people in attendance.

Two members of the bank’s senior management team joined the first part of the meeting, The Co-operative Bank plc | Executive Management Team (co-operativebank.co.uk) Maria Cearns (Managing Director of Customer & People) and Lesley McPherson (Director of Communications and Marketing). Maria and Lesley gave an update on the bank’s year, including how it has been facing the Coronavirus crisis and supporting its customers through the pandemic, and answered a barrage of questions from Customer Union members.

The news of a bid for the bank was discussed and the options for encouraging a return to cooperative ownership. To help inform this question, a specialist panel of experts had been put together, one of whom was able to join the discussion. Plans to campaign for the bank to reinstate external auditing of its Ethical Policy implementation, starting in January were also discussed. A fuller report of the Gathering is available here.

Cerberus makes a bid for the bank

There is understandable alarm at the prospect of a sale to Cerberus Capital Management – a New York based private equity fund named, not very reassuringly, after the mythical three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell – a company with a reputation as an asset-stripper.

The Guardian quoted Customer Union director Ryan Brightwell saying that any new owners must maintain the bank’s ethical position or risk losing customers.

Lucy White (This is Money) reports that campaigners insist that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) must step in to prevent the infamous US firm ‘wrecking more lives’.

The UK Mortgage Prisoners campaign group has appealed to regulators to stop the sale as their members (the so-called mortgage prisoners) have been held hostage for years by Cerberus, and in some cases threatened with sudden eviction from their homes.

Tory , co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, said he couldn’t think of a worse bidder and wrote to the Bank of England asking them to block the deal.

The Customer Union says the bid underlines the urgency of working to encourage a cooperative bidder for the Co-op Bank. It will continue working to make sure the bank sticks to its ethical principles and if this deal goes ahead, will consult its 1,300 members about whether it will choose to stay with the bank. The union can have more influence on the outcome if all act together.

 

 

 

 

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