Tomorrow we say farewell to the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, the legislation which has provided a legal framework for the vast majority of Britain’s coops for over 110 years. We welcome instead the new Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act.
It was two early cooperative pioneers (both members of the group known as the Christian Socialists) J M F Ludlow and Edward Vansittart Neale who shepherded the first IPSA through Parliament in 1852, giving cooperative societies at least some of the legal protection which they needed to develop. In hindsight it might have been even better if Neale and Ludlow could have arranged for the legislation to be called the Co-operatives Act but, never mind, we’ve learned to live with ‘industrial and provident societies’ over the years and in fact I will almost mourn their disappearance into history.
Don’t get too excited, however: the new law is simply an act consolidating existing legislation, and won’t introduce any new powers for cooperatives. I wrote about the change earlier in the year for the Guardian: it’s here, if you’re interested.