The independent difference: Midcounties Co-operative

mid-counties logo

After reading the last post, a concerned co-operator sent word that he was pleased to say the Midcounties was different. Members did get to vote on the report at the AGM and decide on how much to donate to the charitable work and to staff. The directors (executive) salaries and bonuses were declared in writing, name by name. Salaries were median for their job. Bonuses were modest and very small compared to, say, a supermarket chain.

He recently attended their first energy group panel (3 hours on a Saturday). So far so good – they had good news to report (they’d solved a huge problem with their website billing system). He has submitted some suggestions and will see “if we are there to provide a glossy coat or hold the managers we employ to account” and ends: “I am hopeful”.

A search found that this 150 year old society covers a wide and diverse area, including the Black Country and the Forest of Dean. It is one of 21 co-operative retail societies independent of the large Co-operative Group, listed on this Wikipedia site. Its website adds that it is now the largest independent co-operative in the UK with gross sales of over £1 billion and more than 500,000 members.

In its news section, as well as the usual donations to community projects, we read that volunteers from the Midcounties Co-operative Food store on High Holborn Road, Sedgley, have begun work on the restoration of Ladies Walk alleyway which had ‘fallen into disrepair’ and become a ‘hotspot’ for anti-social behaviour – the only entry about it online being an ad for mobile security patrols . . . Lee Brown, manager of the store, which is adjacent to the alleyway, took action after hearing several complaints from local residents about the issues surrounding the area. Dudley Council provided litter pickers and bow saws to the team of 30 volunteers to clear the alleyway and the next task is to level the ground and restore the area, helped by people from the local community centre and gardening club. The project, also supported by the police, aims to install security lighting and cameras before winter.

tom ley yoghurtIt is cheering to read that last year Midcounties moved towards using local produce. It is now stocking a range of hand-blended yoghurt, with blackberry, mango, strawberry and kiwi flavours, made by a local resident Tom Ley (left) using only milk and real fruit – with no added sugar, flavourings, colourings or starch.

Phil Ponsonby, Group General Manager at The Midcounties Co-operative Food, said: “As a co-operative, we’re committed to supporting local suppliers, and with consumers increasingly looking for healthier options, Yokel Yogurt is already proving popular in our stores in and around Aylesbury.

Other societies providing local choices for their consumers include the East of England Co-operative, which has nurtured 140 local suppliers and ploughed more than £25m into its region’s economy since 2007, and Lincolnshire, whose Love Local range rose by 11%.

The British co-operative movement in recent years failed to supply stores with produce from its own farms and rarely offers organic or other pesticide-free produce, but moves like this bring some hope for those looking, as Phil Ponsonby said, for healthier options.




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