Daniel Boffey, with his earlier years with the Daily Mail clearly in the ascendant, recently wrote an article in the Observer about the Co-operative Group
A concerned co-operator sent a link to his text, which opened by recapitulating: “A series of financial and sex scandals . . . discovery of a £1.5bn black hole in the Co-op Bank’s balance sheets and allegations of incompetence, financial dishonesty and drug-taking surrounding . . . Paul Flowers”.
Boffey alleges that the Co-operative Group is paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to Quiller Consultants
QC is a lobbying and reputation management firm, led by a former special adviser to David Cameron, with a former Conservative campaign director and close friend to chancellor George Osborne, who is now moving to Santander bank.
According to its website it “promotes and defends the interests and reputations of businesses, institutions and individuals”. Boffey says the contract is rumoured within the Co-operative Group to be worth as much as £1m, a figure disputed by sources close to management.
He adds that – at the same time – the Group is cutting or terminating donations to charities and organisations, including:
- the Co-operative Women’s Guild
- the Mutuo thinktank
- and Supporters Direct, which promotes fans’ ownership of football clubs.
His final allegation: the Co-op Group is considering halving the number of democratically elected members
The Co-op board has also been presented with a plan to reduce its elected members from 15 to seven, with four non-executives being brought in, including the chief executive of the Co-op Group, Euan Sutherland. The move would change the power structure of the board at the expense of the democratically elected members.
If only half of these allegations are true, concerned co-operators will be asking, “Can the Co-operative Group leopard really change its spots?” We hope to be reassured.
Random readers should be reminded that the Co-operative Group is only one sector in the wider movement which includes retail co-ops, Waitrose, John Lewis, smaller independent consumer co-ops and hundreds of worker co-ops which – by and large – abide by the founding co-operative principles and values.