2. “A self-perpetuating lucrative sinecure for an under-achieving hierarchy”

.

Midlands Society Chief Executive and Co-op Group director Willie Tucker said at his retirement meeting: “There are still too many exam­ples of individuals – sometimes at the highest levels – who are using the Movement for their own personal convenience having lost sight (if indeed they ever had sight) of what exactly it is we are trying to achieve through co-operation.

Lincoln Co-op director and former Congress President Alan Middleton said that the movement is “over-dominated” by paid officers: “Readers need to be quite clear, there are still officials around – employ­ees of the Movement – who will not rest until the voice of the lay member has been completely silenced.

Ron Hunter from Sussex deplored the deferring of the Quinquennial Review of the movement’s democratic structure and the introduction of Project Exchequer, a management project that used funding cuts to make savings, believing that it was more concerned with implementing decisions already taken by the Group Board without consulting and involving members.

Vic Parks, chair of the Group’s Surrey and Berks Area Committee, writing in a personal capacity added the charge that the Group’s financial problems were being used as an opportunity to reduce the powers of elected members in favour of staff.

Robin Martakies, North East and Cumbria Area Committee and Values & Principles Committee, said: Savage cuts have been imposed upon committees in a cavalier and undemocratic manner, without taking into account the fact that ordinary members, rather than management, own the society . . .

Martyn Wates, Chief Financial Officer of United Co-operatives said – regarding the sale of dairies, garages and food stores – that most co-operators would rather have provision of the widest possible range of services than a higher financial return produced by a society acting as a property investment business, renting its property to non-co-operator competitors.

M.D Mathieson questioned the whole concept of the Co-operative Group, as it now exists: it now operates at such a scale that it has lost an important co-operative asset, a sense of belonging to a community . . .the individual members do not vote for Board members, do not have a vote on the annual report and accounts and cannot attend the AGM. Representatives elected by an obscure transferable vote system do all this for them.

Philip Rapier, member of the Group’s South Wales Regional Committee, writing in a personal capacity, stated that milking the cash cow while destroying the democratic structure of the movement by stealth appears to be the present tactic of the present Co-op Group hierarchy.

He said that the decline of the movement’s democratic heritage must be stopped by changing the status quo, which is a vehicle for creating a self-perpetuating lucrative sinecure for an under-achieving hierarchy.

 

Source: Co-operative News, 2005

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