We have the first new consolidated Co-operatives Act in the UK for nearly fifty years. With our technical input, support from across the political spectrum and preparatory work by the Law Commission, the Coalition Government has made UK a better place to start and grow co-operatives.
The landmark Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act (2014) which comes into force today brings together long dated overly complex legislation into one unified statute. It also wraps up a programme of legislative reform delivered by the Coalition:
- cutting quite a bit of red tape,
- closing down some unhelpful loopholes where coops were overlooked in relation to business benefits and
- confirming some new gains, such as a three-fold increase in the investment limit in co-operatives.
This shows what can be achieved when broad political support is backed up by firm government action. One new co-operative starts every working day of the week and the turnover of the sector has outpaced the UK economy in recent years.
There’s still more to be done though and we have a clear agenda for what the government can still do to harness the co-operative momentum.
Of course, there is focus and learning too, coming out of what went wrong at The Co-operative Group when it lost sight of what members wanted, with structures that didn’t advance their interests. Co-operatives are businesses that are owned by and run for its members and are at their best when that co-operative difference runs through it like a stick of rock.
In that spirit, co-operatives across the UK came together recently at a congress in Birmingham, to develop an Action Plan for the co-operative sector.
We are moving now, from what has felt like a year of defence to what can now be a decade of action.