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: a tribute by the Chair of the S Wales Area Committee, the Co-operative, 9 April 2013

As I’m sure you are all aware - with the death of Hilda Smith last month at the great age of 94 - Co-operation has lost a great advocate and worker. Hilda was a former member of this Committee and in such circumstances members would normally take the opportunity of a Committee meeting to pay tributes.

Our circumstances on this occasion are rather different as we have Hilda’s son David as one of our current members.

David has intimated to me that he has been very touched and moved by all the letters and cards of sympathy he has received from Co-operative colleagues expressing sadness at Hilda’s passing and for the wonderful contributions she has made.

He does not feel that he could emotionally cope with a series of tributes this evening and in these circumstances what I propose to do, as Chair, is to make a SINGLE tribute on behalf of us all, followed by a period of silence during which we can all privately reflect on Hilda as a person and a co-operator.

I have known Hilda for getting on for 20 years –not as long as some on this Committee have known her – but still a long time. When she joined the South Wales Committee of the Co-operative Group, I think in 2009, she must have been by a long stretch, its oldest “new” member, although she had been a member of many co-op committees before.

She was very active in what can now be seen as a golden age of Co-operation in the 1930’s and was particularly engaged in the campaigning illustrated in the wonderful films of the London Co-operative Society, with themes of Internationalism, Education Pacifism and Feminism. We have to remember, Hilda was not all that far behind the Pankhurst’s and she was born just after the ending of the First World War.

As many of us know, Hilda was completely passionate about what she believed in and was always a strong advocate for the same.  She was always a master of her brief and fastidious in studying her papers and making reasoned and detailed contributions.

She had a powerful intellect but was still very interested in making practical observations about what a store should stock, what services it should give to the customers/ members and how they could be engaged at shop level.

I remember her observing back in the early days of Recession, that the support work of the Co-operative Group, through such things as the Community Divided Fund would become far more vital, as Public Expenditure Cuts bite and she is being proven right.

To think when she arrived in South Wales in 1986, she did not come for a rest, because at the age of 76, she set about with vigour in a whole new co-operative and mutual scene.

 She was instrumental in establishing the Newport University of the Third Age, The Wales Food Alliance- together with David – which had a number of collaborations with the Group. She was a member of the WG Older Persons Advisory Committee and made a considerable contribution to policy formulation. Of late she has been engaged in modelling social enterprises to deliver home care.

I last saw Hilda at the Members meeting last year at St Fagan’s, when the meeting was somewhat hijacked by Disability Rights Protesters.  I will remember her contribution for a very long time. She was not prepared to sit idly by but rose to make an impassioned speech about how Co-operatives had been at the forefront of protecting and promoting the rights of the disabled for getting on for 100 years.

David, Hilda was highly principled, creative, dynamic not just a thinker and dreamer about the Co-operative Commonwealth but who has actually contributed to help make it happen over 60 or 70 years.

We are all the better for knowing her and she has left you with much to live up to!

Brian Rees

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