Labour and Conservative hierarchies ardently encouraged the willing Co-operative Group to corporatise
They forgot Schumacher’s dictum: “Small is beautiful’.
Paul Flowers, Peter Marks and others let co-operative principles and traditional practice go as they entered the world of expansion, takeovers, mergers and profit maximisation at all costs.
Not so the worker co-operatives and those independent co-operative societies which would not join this giant group.
Some independent co-operative societies and most of the hundreds of worker co-operatives in this country have lived up to the theory and practice discovered by Mary Holmes, a researcher new to the sector in 2002:
“One sometimes reads of outstanding examples of business organisations that combine meeting customer needs, realising the full potential of their staff, involvement with the local community and concern for environmental impact. What is so impressive about worker co-ops – as a group – is that with co-operative businesses such shining stars are the norm. I have recently been involved with sending out questionnaires to members of the national support organisation for co-operatives and have been amazed by the replies. Why?
“In a world awash with lyrical mission statements about ‘excellence’, ‘service’ and ‘ethical dimensions’ worker co-ops actually have their values at the centre of the business not just as add-on extras. Worker co-operatives are businesses which are democratically controlled by the employees. Internationally recognised co-operative principles also include: equitable distribution of any surplus, limited return on capital, co-operation between co-operatives, and social and educational aims.
A good example of the more creative independent co-operative societies is that headed for years by Ursula Lidbetter, who has been appointed chair of the Co-operative Group.
A wise and experienced hand – will she be able to steer that vessel into calmer and more productive waters?
“Lincolnshire is a model of what mutualism can achieve: as well as its food shops, it subsidises rural post offices, owns social housing and is a commercial landlord. It’s the seventh largest of the co-op societies – it made an £18m trading surplus this year, and it is handing over a £4.2m dividend to its 228,000 members (Ed: and that’s only half the story). If the authoritative voice of success were going to be enough to salvage the brand, then Lidbetter’s should be it”.
Posted on November 21, 2013, in Corporate political nexus, Government, Vested interests and tagged Co-operative Group, Co-operative principles, Independent co-operative societies, Lincolnshire, Ursula Lidbetter, Worker co-operatives. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.