Co-operative Group adopts new structure

Co-operative Group adopts new structureThe Co-operative Group has adopted a new structure as it seeks to improve the business continuity of its component parts following a troubled past two years.

Members voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new rulebook at a special general meeting at its Manchester headquarters.

Among the elements of the new regime will be a more streamlined board of directors made up of people who have been directly elected by the membership. This will be done on a one-member, one-vote basis and such polls will also help to make decisions on major transactions and enable more individuals to play a large part in general meetings.

The plan was drawn up by the board in consultation with members and 83 per cent voted in favour of it.

Commenting on the outcome, chair of the group Ursula Lidbetter said: “This is a momentous and defining moment for the Co-operative Group and I am delighted that our members have voted in favour of this much-needed radical reform to our governance structure.

“These reforms represent the final crucial step in delivering the change necessary to return the Group to health.”

In the past year, the group has had to divest a significant number of assets in its various businesses, from the sale of some of its pharmacies to the loss of a controlling stake in the highly-troubled Co-operative Bank.

The Bank’s woes have been the worst element of the Group’s troubles, with a series of management errors causing it to slip into trouble less than a decade after it was turning in record profits year after year.

Blunders included failing to capitalise on the potential of the acquisition of Britannia Building Society and the appointment of under-qualified staff in senior positions, such as that of former church minister Paul Flowers, who had never worked in banking, as its chairman. The firm’s reputation – which had been boosted by elements like its ‘ethical banking’ stance – took a fresh hit when Rev Flowers was arrested over drug allegations.

Results for the first half of 2014 revealed the bank lost £75.8 billion before tax and cut 21 per cent of its workforce as 46 branches were axed.

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