We remember with great regret the surprise sale of the profitable Birmingham Dairy in 2005, the Co-operative Group’s farmland in 2014, the closure of the Co-operative Women’s Guild in 2016, the sale of The Co-operative Travel to Thomas Cook during 2017 and the travails and eventual sale of the Co-operative Bank (2013-17).
One analysis of the bank’s failure referred to “weak corporate governance at board level in both the Bank and its then owner, the Co-operative Group. Those weaknesses, in turn, reflected too much control and influence at executive level and too little challenge at board level”.
This charge was frequently levelled at the Group by members whose protests – recorded in the News under Dave Bowman’s editorship – went unheeded, with disastrous consequences.
This year, the National Guild of Co-operators was wound up, ‘controversially’ as the News journalist put it.
Vic Parks, a member of the National Guild of Co-operators, wrote requesting the postponement of the meeting on 30 March 2019 and the consideration of alternative proposals by the National Council. The complete text may be read here. He writes:
“I, and others, are calling for postponing the SGM so that a group of us, can try and turn the NGC around like a Phoenix from the flames. Because of those involved in the National Council’s abject failure, I will go further and request that the members stand down and allow, in the interim, a “caretaker” group who will try to turn the organisation around. The fundamental aim would be to change a culture of cold and hostile to one of being warm and friendly – true co-operation! Although I am partially “retired” from politics and Public service, I am prepared to become part of the group to use my education skills and organising policy forum experience to help. As I understand it, in 2017, there was £12000 in funds, but the Treasurer has not issued any further financial statement”.
The News reported: “The guild’s executive attributed the lack of active co-operators to the demise of the previous democratic structure at the Co-op Group. Under its old structure, the Group had area committees whose members were involved in their local guild branches, which received funding from the Group” and, less diplomatically, Vic Parks comments:
“At one time, this was a thriving organisation with various branches. One by one, they dropped away. I am led to believe that an important one went en masse . . . it is my view that this was because of disillusionment with the way the organisation was run and its negative, bullying culture . . .”