NEC Newsletter – Spring 2017

Karen Wilkie
For attention of:
6th April 2017
Last updated:
7th December 2017
10th December 2023
Other formats:

The National Executive Committee met in Luton in March 2017 and some of the key items discussed are outlined below.  This was the last meeting for this NEC.  The next will be in June, and this will be the AGM, and the first meeting for the new members who will be elected to serve from 2017 to 2020.

Members paid warm tributes to Paul Bull, NEC member for the South West Region, who passed away in February.

In this newsletter:

  • NEC Elections 2017
  • Annual Report and Accounts 2016
  • Policy Process 2017
  • Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group
  • Political Representation in Northern Ireland
  • Annual Conference 2017
  • Centenary
  • Recruitment & Membership
  • Staff
  • Strategic Plan

NEC Elections 2017

Elections to the NEC are on-going.  The closing date for nominations was 9 March and voting papers will be issued from 7 April.  The ballot will close at noon on 2 May – click here to read more about the election and the candidates.

Annual Report and Accounts 2016

The Party’s Auditors presented the audited accounts for 2016 and these, together with the Annual Report, were approved.  The Annual Report and Accounts will be presented to the AGM in London on 13 October but will be sent to subscribing societies before the summer.

Policy Process 2017

The policy consultation documents on education and housing have been launched.  Local parties, affiliates and individuals are encouraged to contribute online before 30 June.

Co-operative Party Parliamentary Group

NEC was pleased to welcome Gareth Snell, as the Party’s newest MP, following the Stoke on Trent by-election.  Gareth was formerly a Party officer and Labour & Co-operative councillor.

The parliamentary panel will be reopened soon, ahead of selections beginning for the 2020 general election.  Information will be sent to Party Councils, branches and affiliates urging them to seek out and encourage suitable potential candidates to apply.

Political Representation in Northern Ireland

The Labour Party is currently reviewing whether to stand candidates for election in Northern Ireland.  Given our long-standing electoral agreement with the Labour Party this also raises issues and questions for the Co-operative Party to address.  We have accepted therefore the invitation from the Labour Party to participate in the review.

Whichever path the Labour Party chooses to take, how we proceed regarding registering as a political party in Northern Ireland and contesting elections is a matter for the Co-operative Party – its NEC and members.  The NEC has agreed that our key objective will be to determine what course will be most effective in securing our primary purpose – to promote and protect the co-operative model.

The Northern Ireland Co-operative Party has already met to discuss Labour Party electoral representation, and the NEC will be consulting all members in Northern Ireland on the further implications for the Co-operative Party before taking a view.

Annual Conference 2017

Plans are well in hand for our Centenary Conference in London.  The AGM of Co-operative Party Ltd will take place in Methodist Central Hall on Friday 13 October.  This was the venue for the special Co-operative Congress called to create the Co-operative Party in October 1917.  The remainder of Annual Conference will be in the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 October.

This will be a very special, once in a generation, event.  There is no maximum number of delegates that an affiliate or Party Council may send, and we urge you to support as many of your members as possible to attend.  Early delegate registration – at a special reduced rate –  closes on 30 April.  If you are a Party officer or society secretary and have not received details, please contact us.


There are a wide range of Centenary events going on throughout the year.  The first of these was our very successful Economy Conference.  This is being followed by events and exhibitions across the UK, organised by Party Councils, branches and Societies, our Peoples History Museum exhibition in the autumn, the launch of the banner and book, and the oral history project.  If you would like to contribute to or know more about any of these projects, please contact us.

Recruitment & Membership

The Party now has more than 10,000 members, and continues to see strong growth following the start of our Centenary Recruitment plan involving a discounted membership rate, increased social media promotion and our ‘2017 Can Be Better’ campaign.  We aim to recruit at least 100 new members in every month, with a goal of 1,917 new members by the end of the year – this target has been met in both January and February.  Online recruitment accounts for most new members at 96.8%, with 2.1% recruited locally

In January, we introduced a special rate of £19.17 for the first year of membership for new members, supporting our increased recruitment. The Party has also seen sustained improvement in its retention rates since a series of interventions started in 2014.

In December, we launched our new 100 Club (£8.33 per month/£100 per year) and 1917 Club (£19.17 per month/£230 per year). These bring together a package of offers for members who are able contribute above the standard membership rates. The response to the Clubs so far has been far higher than expected, with contributions helping to diversify the Party’s income and deliver our ambitious plans for the year ahead.  More information about these clubs is here.


The Party has recruited a temporary part-time staff in Scotland, Wales and the Midlands, with support from the local Parties.  This will enable us to raise our profile and activity in the crucial period up to the local elections.  They will be joined by a new staff supporting the Youth Committee and the work of the Party in London.

Anna Birley has joined the Party as Policy Officer to replace James Scott.

Strategic plan

Each NEC meeting, the General Secretary reports on the Party’s progress on the Strategic Plan.  Here are some recent highlights: –

Enable the delivery of co-operative solutions 

  • People’s Bus service in WitneyAfter a year of work by local Labour & Co-operative councillors to save local bus services – inspired by our People’s Bus campaign – West Oxfordshire Community Transport (WOCT) in Witney, is carrying its first passengers.  You can see a short film about WOCT on the Party’s Facebook page.
  • Backing for UK SMEsIn January, Labour & Co-operative MP Christina Rees made the case for allowing Mutual Guarantee Societies in the UK.  These are non-profit financial establishments, often representing businesses in a region or sectors of the economy.
  • Levelling the playing field for Co-opsThe Party constantly seeks to ensure that the legislative and policy framework does not disadvantage the co-operative model.  Following the introduction of Adrian Bailey MP’s Private Members Bill the ‘Small, Medium Size Co-operative Development Bill’ (which sought to tackle disadvantages experienced by small co-operatives), Adrian Bailey and Ed Mayo met with Treasury Ministers to secure support for the Bill’s aims.
  • The Savings (Government Contributions) BillGareth Thomas MP, supported by all Co-operative MPs, raised amendments during the passage of this Bill through Parliament.  The amendments sought to enable credit unions to offer the new lifetime ISA product.  Unfortunately, government opposed the change and the amendments were defeated.  Following the vote on the floor of the House, Party Chair Gareth Thomas secured a meeting with the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to discuss the issue further.

Inspire, Educate & Inform the public and decision makers about co-operation  

  • In Our InterestsThe Co-operative Party, in partnership with Community Union, hosted a one day conference of keynote speeches and debates on the future of the economy on Saturday 28 January in Central London.  This was the first big event of our centenary year.Trade Union Congress General Secretary, Frances O’Grady and Labour Deputy Leader, Tom Watson MP gave keynote speeches.  Other speakers included Shadow City Minister, Johnathan Reynolds MP; Ed Mayo, Co-ops UK; Deb Oxley, Employee Ownership Association; Damon Gibbons, Centre for Responsible Credit; Torsten Bell, Resolution Foundation and Constance Laisne from AltGen.  We welcomed over 160 people to Coin Street Conference Centre together with Sky TV and ITV news.We used the occasion to launch In our Interests: Building an Economy for All a collection of essays that includes contributions from the Co-op’s CEO Richard Pennycook, Marc Stears, New Economics Foundation; Ruth Yeoman, University of Oxford, tax campaigner Richard Murphy and Ed Mayo, Co-ops UK. Topics covered include employee ownership, consumer rights, tackling tax avoidance and reforming corporate governance.
  • Labour Local Government ConferenceThe Party held a successful fringe meeting on Social Care at Labour Local Government Conference.
  • Open Co-op ConferenceThe General Secretary chaired a session on how government can support platform co-operatives at the Platform Co-op conference in London, organised by Open Co-op.   John McDonnell MP spoke in the session and reiterated his commitments to the next Labour Government looking to significantly expand the co-operative sector.

Supporting the election of co-operators at all levels 

The Scottish Co-operative Party and Wales Co-operative Parties have recruited Campaigns Officers in the run up to important local elections in each country in May.  This will enable the Party in both nations to run a more distinctively co-operative and higher profile campaign.  In England, there are local elections in the Counties and for the first time we are hoping to have candidates standing in every Party Council area.

Making the Party financially sustainable 

The Centenary Conference is a significant priority for income generation in 2017, with high targets for delegate numbers and sponsorship (see above).  Please contact us if you wish to discuss sponsorship or can suggest an organisation that may wish to be involved.

As reported above, individual membership income continues to increase.  Having met the original 2017 aim of 10,000 members before the year commenced the NEC has set a stretching target of 1917 new members in the current year.  The new 1917 and 100 clubs have also exceeded their initial targets

To be valued by our members, including our subscribing societies  

1. Society members

  • Subscribing Retail Societies ForumIn February, we had a meeting of the Subscribing Retail Societies.  The Forum now meets twice a year and agreed a purpose and terms of reference.  Topics at this meeting included subscriptions and party activity.
  • Promoting FairtradeLabour & Co-operative MP Lucy Powell asked a Parliamentary Question in the House of Commons challenging Ministers to ensure that Fairtrade was part of future UK international trade deals.  She also took the opportunity to highlight upcoming Fairtrade fortnight.  The Party encouraged our MPs and Peers to support the fortnight – including attending the Fairtrade APPG event in Parliament – and our members to trade with retail co-operatives.
  • Highlighting the Co-op’s Community FundFollowing a meeting with Rufus Ollins, the Co-op’s new Head of Membership, we were asked to promote the opportunity to nominate local charities to receive a share of the 1%.

2. Individual members

  • Members magazineAll members have received their membership cards and the latest copy of ‘the Pioneer’.  We also wrote to lapsed members with a copy of the magazine asking them to re-join, and have had a good response.
  • Support for local meetings and activitiesParty staff have supported and attended Party Council and branch meetings across the country including East Sussex, West Sussex, Kent, London, the South West and Wales.
  • Women’s NetworkThe Women’s Network was relaunched in March in the House of Lords and all women members of the Party have been emailed to invite them to express an interest in future involvement with the Network.  We are very grateful to Rea Bernard, a female activist in London for her help co-ordinating network.
Action Points
  • Read the newsletter and get in touch if you have any questions
For more information

For more information about the work of the NEC, please contact

Karen Wilkie

Deputy General Secretary