Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

Doubling the size of the co-operative sector will be vital to restoring economic and productivity growth to all UK nations, regions and communities. The benefits of the co-operative model are well known – higher staff retention, improved productivity, and higher business resilience – leading to better jobs for workers and stronger local economies.

The Welsh Labour & Co-operative Government have been leading the way on co-operative growth for years, with Wales being the only nation in the UK to have a Minister for Co-operatives.  The Welsh Government funds Cwmpas, the Welsh co-operative development centre, which is the largest co-operative development agency in the UK. Cwmpas provides business support for start-up and existing co-operative enterprises, as well as employee owned and community business.

New research from Co-operatives UK demonstrates the clear impact of the Welsh Government’s ambitions for co-operative growth. Wales now exceeds the other nations of the UK in co-operative growth, with the number of co-operatives rising by 2.16% over the last year compared to 0.85% in England. New co-operative starts per million of the population are now nearly double England – with 5.5 co-operatives per million in Wales to 2.9 in England.

The employee-owned business sector has also been growing at a terrific rate, with the sector doubling in numerical size over the last five years. Growth in the employee-owned sector in Wales have been accelerating since around 2010, with the sector increasing by over 400% since then.

This growth has been assisted by the work of Cwmpas, which deliver the Employee Ownership Wales service. This service provides business and financial advice to existing, new and transitioning employee-owned businesses. The Welsh Labour & Co-operative Government are continuing to support this agenda, with Co-operative MS and Minister for the Economy in Wales Vaughan Gething pledging £1.7m in funding to support businesses transitioning to employee ownership during this year’s budget.

The Co-operative Party believe we could grow the sector even further by introducing a Welsh version of the Marcora Law, an Italian law which gives workers the right to buy out their company if its being sold or at risk of closure. A new right to request employee ownership during business succession could help spur the employee-owned sector on to greater heights across Wales.

Growth in the co-operative and employee-owned sectors are testament to the Welsh Labour & Co-operative Government’s work on developing social businesses. But we need to go even further in our ambitions. The Welsh Government should aim to expand this work to deliver a doubling of the size of the co-operative sector over the next five years, taking numbers from 521 to over 1,000 co-operatives. This will help ensure workers, communities and local economies across Wales benefit from the co-operative and mutual model.