For over a year, one of the biggest policy stories of common concern to co-operative enterprises has been the UK Government’s approach to regulation. This was mainly sparked by guidance the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued in October 2014, which caused confusion and concern for our members large and small across sectors.
Since then we’ve been involved in some quite vocal lobbying and campaigning, have gone into detailed consultation with our own members, and led in responding to two FCA consultations.
The FCA’s finalised guidance has now been released and overall there is a significant improvement on what was there before. The regulator has listened, to its credit. The biggest improvements are:
1. No definition of co-ops that excludes retail societies or worker co-ops
2. No attempts to impose low/arbitrary caps on interest rates paid on share capital
3. No characterization of bencoms as charitable/philanthropic
4. A clearer more accessible document.
More than 600 co-ops responded to the first FCA consultation in November 2014, and another 150 responded to a second FCA consultation in July.
We are working through the document and will be supporting co-ops to align with the rules.
It is far from the end of changes we would like to see, to make it as easy and as natural to start and grow a co-op as any other form of business. But the extent of the improvements in policy terms is testament to the collective impact we’ve had this year with members and partners.