There’s a lot I find valuable in Lord Myners’ report. But I have one difficulty with his approach – his proposals are focused solely on a top-down approach to governance reform.
If the Co-operative Group is to change, there also needs to be bottom-up reform. The Group’s shops need to be radically different in their relationship with their customers than the competition.
I see a lot of my local coop. I shop there pretty well every day (it’s my corner shop). I chat with the staff. I bump into friends. I sometimes bemoan the stocking disasters (there was even a time when the shop ran out of potatoes). But my close relationship with my shop does not have any link to my distant relationship as a member with the Group.
Here’s my suggestion: Area Councils should go. Members should be invited to identify with their local shop. There should be meeting of member-shoppers at least every year, where we’d be given crisps and something to drink and get to talk to the store manager and an appropriate more senior member of staff. We’d probably moan a bit, but we’d also contribute good ideas, which would make the shop better. And we’d feel engaged.
I’m proposing to call my idea the ‘Cooperative Risorgimento’: it sounds better than ‘cooperative resurgence’. (And maybe if it happens Garibaldi biscuits will come back on the shelves, too).