Long ago, if I wanted details on a limited company I was researching, I would take myself off to the old Companies House office near Old Street tube. Now it’s so much easier: just log on to the Companies House website. Documents are a £1 apiece.
But what’s this? Try to get equivalent information on a cooperative or bencom (society for the benefit of the community) registered under the Industrial & Provident Societies Act and you will need to look at the list on the website of the Financial Conduct Authority. And every document you want to access will cost you £12.
Should information on coops cost twelve times information on companies? Of course not. It’s not good for researchers, and it indirectly discourages high standards of cooperative governance. (Incidentally, it also breaches international guidelines which say that coops should be treated no less favourably than other forms of enterprise).
Of course, the problem would be partly solved if coops and social enterprises ensured their rules and accounts were available on their own websites. (Treat this as a gentle hint if you’re reading this, Greenwich Leisure…)