Minister announces members of Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission

(to discuss suggested Terms of Reference for the Commission, please go to Co-op+Mutual priorities )

Membership of the newly formed Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission - tasked with examining how the co-operative sector can create more jobs and wealth and improve services in Wales - is announced today by Business Minister Edwina Hart

The Minister said: “This diverse sector makes an important contribution to the Welsh economy while providing valuable support and services for individuals and communities. However it is important that we understand how this sector could grow and develop and examine what interventions and support may be needed.

“I am delighted to announce the members of the Commission who will work under the leadership of Professor Andrew Davies. They bring with them a high level of knowledge, experience and expertise and will add value to the work of the Commission in developing a vision and framework to support the growth of the mutual and co-operative sector in Wales.”

In Wales, co-operatives generate more than £1billion in income a year and employ an estimated 7,000 people (2010 figures). Eight of Wales' co-operatives, which have a combined turnover of more than £165million, feature in the UK’s top 100 co-operatives by turnover.

Chaired by Professor Andrew Davies, Swansea University’s Strategic Adviser, the Commission will make recommendations on growing and developing the co-operative and mutual economy in Wales in order to create jobs and wealth in support of the Welsh Government’s aims and ambitions. 

The following are appointed to the Commission:

·         Nicholas Bennett, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru

·         Dr Molly Scott Cato, Professor of Strategy and Sustainability at Roehampton University

·         Dame Pauline Green, President of International Co-operative Alliance

·         David Jenkins OBE, Chair of the Aneurin Bevan Health Board and Chair of Wales Co-operative Centre.

·         Robin Murray, Industrial and environmental economist

·         Dr Ben Reynolds, Director of Trilein

·         Sir Paul Williams OBE, CStJ, DL, Former Chief Executive NHS Wales

Professor Andrew Davies said: "The setting up of the Welsh GovernmentCo-operative and Mutuals Commissioncomes at an opportune time to explore the potential for development of the co-operative and mutual sectors in Wales and their contribution to the economy and services.

“Many people are now looking for alternative and more ethical ways of running businesses and services. Co-ops, like the Co-operative Group including the Co-op Bank and Mutuals like the John Lewis Partnership, are some of our largest and most successful companies in the UK. The Welsh Government is ambitious in examining ways this alternative approach to how companies and services in Wales can be run."

The Commission will :

·         Consider the evidence for supporting the co-operative and mutual sector in Wales;

·         Consider the existing business advice for the co-operative and mutual sector and provide suggestions on how this might be strengthened;

·         Identify specific areas that might be targeted for additional support by the Welsh Government;

·         Consider best practice and evaluations that may be available;

·         Set out a vision for the co-operative and mutual economy in Wales;

·         Identify and establish benchmarks;

·         Provide suggestions on strategic direction and practical recommendations for the achievement of the vision

It is to hold its first meeting next month and will hear and gather evidence from key individuals and organisations with the aim of providing a draft report to the Minister in September 2013.

Commission members are not remunerated although some travel and other reasonable expenses incurred can be claimed.


Notes to Editors:

·         About two-thirds of co-operatives in Wales are set up from scratch, with the remaining one-third being employee buy-outs.

·         2012 is the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives


Hilda Smith, feminist and co-operator

Hilda Smith, MBE - ‘To hope, to dare and do’.

Hilda Smith, a distinguished feminist and co-operator, died recently aged 94. Born and raised in Burnley, she started work at 14 earning six shillings a week in a sewing factory.

Active in the feminist, co-operative and labour movements for over 50 years, her relentless commitment to social and gender equality stands out as an example of selfless commitment to the wellbeing and welfare of others. Hilda constantly fought for the things that she believed in, she was practically minded, compassionate and stoical in her determination.

Hilda started her political career in 1958 serving her apprenticeship in Woking Co-operative Womens Guild. In 1963 she was elected to the Political Purposes Committee of the influential Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society (RACS), becoming its first and only female chair within a short space of time. RACS was the only Society directly affiliated to the Labour Party. She used her influence to ensure that the voice of ordinary women and their families was heard by the Labour Party and Government, with easy access to Labour Ministers and Prime Minsters.

For Hilda, the 'personal was the political'. As a women who entered formal education in her mid forties, Hilda knew from experience that access to social, educational and economic opportunities was a key issue. She worked alongside prominent women MPs and trade union leaders on the National Joint Committee of Working Women (NJC), to bring about the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975, and the formation of the Equal Opportunities Commission, who took steps to bring this to the fore.

As a patient in a TB sanatorium from 1947 to 1950, Hilda understood the importance of preventive health. She contributed extensively on health policy issues and chaired an NJC national working group which produced a comprehensive ‘Health Care for Women’ policy document (1977), (Virago). As a former nurse and as a social worker, Hilda contributed extensively to the NJC’s evidence to Government inquiries. including the Seebohm Committee (1969), the Finer Commission on Single Parent Families (1974), and the NHS Royal Commission (1979). She championed new and neglected issues and, in 1982, authored an NJC food policy statement which recommended developing a Government policy on food and nutrition to build a national approach to healthy eating. .

Throughout, she was never concerned with courting popularity. In 1981, against wider conventional opinion she supported a National Minimum Wage campaign because she knew this would help millions of women.

In 1990 she received a Shadow Ministry for Women award for “her lifetime, particularly within the Co-operative Movement, fighting for equality for women and for their full representation at all levels of the Labour Movement”.

Her meticulously-kept NJC papers and encouragement led Labour historian Christine Collette to take a fresh look in her book, the ‘Newer Eve’, at what was called the ‘second wave of feminism'.

On retiring to Wales, Hilda continued her work as Health Convenor for the Fawcett Society. She was very active for another 26 years and was awarded an MBE in the 2013 Honours List for “services to frail and vulnerable people”.

It is hard to measure the impact of Hilda Smith upon the way in which we have become committed to equality over the last 40 years. Her quiet determination and relentless passion helped to improve the lives of many people who will never know her name or understand her contribution. She lived life with purpose and with passion to deliver a greater vision of a fair and just society, and helped to make this world a better place.

David Smith

Hilda is survived by her sons Peter and myself, three grandchildren and nine grandchildren

Hilda Smith, born 10 February 1919, died 27 March 2013


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