The Party was created in 1917 to serve the Co-operative Movement of the United Kingdom, and it is committed to working in support of the aims of that Movement.

The Party is a political Party, registered and regulated by the Electoral Commission under the Political Parties and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA).  Originally a section of the Co-operative Union (Co-ops UK), in 2015 the Party was established in its own right as a co-operative and is registered under the Co-operative and Community Benefits Act 2014.

The members of the Society (Co-operative Party Ltd) are the individual members of the Party and affiliated Societies.

The purpose of the Party is set out in the rules of the Society, Section A of the Rule Book.

Structure

The Party was originally organised around co-operative society structures and not political boundaries.

In 2010, the Party was restructured to define all local Co-operative Parties (also referred to as Party Councils, which are their governing bodies) by local authority boundaries.  Party Councils will usually cover more than one borough, unitary or county council area.  Party Councils have one or more branches (see below) and in some areas the branches still reflect historical trading areas in their names or area covered.

Branches

Individual members of the Co-operative Party belong to branches and branch meetings are open to all members.  Their role and purpose is set out in the model rules.   They are the core of the Party’s campaigning and recruitment activity locally and also work to seek and support the selection and election of Co-operative Party elected representatives.  They help generate the ideas and policies of the party.

Branches vary in size, some are small geographically but large in number, others cover large rural areas but have fewer members.  Their work is co-ordinated by their Party Council, to which each branch will send delegates and they should meet at least four times a year.

Party Councils

Party Councils co-ordinate the work of the Local Party in their defined area.  They are governed by delegates elected by each branch, together with representatives of subscribing Societies.  Their role and purpose is set out in the model rules.

Most Local Parties have several branches, but there is a wide variation.  For example, the Dorset Party and has a single branch that covers its entire area whereas the London Party has 28 branches.

Regional Parties

The Co-operative Party has nine regions in England, plus Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  These reflect government regions i.e European Parliamentary constituencies except for North Cumbria, which we include with the North East region, as does the Labour Party.

Party Councils elect delegates to the Regional Party, whose role is set out in the Rule Book.  However, In some regions (London, North East & North Cumbria, Yorkshire and Humber) there is a single Party Council , which combines the functions of a Region Regional Party.  This is also the case for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Parties in a region may opt to replace the Regional Party with a Regional Officers Group.

National Executive Committee (NEC)

The NEC exercises all the powers of the Party, subject to the law and the Rules.  Its role, functions and composition are set out in Section A of the Rule Book, the Rules of the Society.

In particular it determines the strategy for the Party and appoints General Secretary.

The NEC is elected every three years, with members elected for Scotland & Northern Ireland, Wales and the nine English Regions elected by and from the individual members by one member one vote, plus a Youth representative and members elected to represent the subscribing societies and the Parliamentary Group.