Co-op Group‘s judgment questioned; choice of director an ‘own-goal’ ?

co-op group logoAndrew Bounds in the Financial Times [May 14] reports that the Midcounties, a large independent society which owns part of the Co-op Group, has strongly criticised the board over the “untransparent” process of nominating and electing new directors, replacing the board of 22 members with a plc-style half the size that included executives.

At one stage Midcounties threatened to take legal action to block the appointment of these directors. The reputable Dame Pauline Green, a former Labour MEP and president of the International Co-operative Alliance, and Nick Eyre, a former secretary of the group, were not selected in what some saw as an effort to “purge” those with a history in the group. Dame Pauline said she was told the board wanted “fresh co-operators”.

Hazel Blears as director – a breath-taking choice

One fresh face selected was Hazel Blears – who proclaimed on the Co-op Group’s website, “Co-operative values and principles have been central to my life and work”.

Members’ comments on her track record pulled no punches in the Co-operative News and The Evening Standard wonders if those casting their votes remembered the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009 and a desperate Blears waving a £13,332 cheque to the Revenue in a television interview, commenting: “That sum — more than a good number of her Salford and Eccles constituents earn in a year — was the amount of capital gains tax she avoided on the sale of her London flat by designating it her main residence under parliamentary rules”.

It is reported that the Co-op Group agreed on Thursday to binding arbitration on how future contests will be run – in what is described as a truce.

Concerned co-operators will hope that all the Group’s appointments will be ‘squeaky clean’ in future – beyond reproach.

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