Peter Roffey has serious concerns about major rule changes proposed by the Co-op at its annual members' meeting next week. He said that if standards of co-operative democracy were lost, it would be forever.
He was vice-president and president of the Co-op for 15 years before leaving the board three years ago, although he remains a keen member.
The society is proposing moving away from having almost all its directors elected by members, to just six of 11 on the board.
Chief governance officer and society secretary Chris Lintell said the rule changes were not aimed at reducing democratic control, and rather were being proposed to protect the interests of members and to improve governance.
But Mr Roffey said this would lead to more non-elected directors, longer maximum terms for non-elected directors, non-elected directors being able to become president, and strict controls over who is eligible to stand for election.
‘It moves too far away from the Co-op’s principle of democratic control which is followed by Co-ops around the world.
‘It is the people who own the business, and they should be able to choose who leads the business on their behalf.’
If the proposals are agreed at the meeting on Tuesday, it would become more of a company set up than a co-operative in the board room, he said.
Mr Roffey also felt this was not in line with other regional Co-ops and said the CI Co-op would be ‘outside the pack’ if the proposals went ahead.
He accepted the proposal would not necessarily be a bad thing, and companies could be run well with this structure. But he felt such a massive issue deserved a physical meeting and should not be rushed through in an online meeting.
Mr Lintell said the changes would help the company meet its regulatory requirements and would align it to the new Co-operative corporate governance code.
He added that the changes were about doing the right thing for members, ensuring they retain democratic control of the society, while being able to attract the right level of skills onto the board.
Mr Roffey and his predecessor, June Le Feuvre, have lodged a motion to delay the discussion of rule changes.
But Mr Lintell said: ‘We believe the time is right to adopt these changes, as they will bring us in line with the updated Co-operative corporate governance code.
‘We don’t believe postponing the meeting will benefit our members, hosting it on the same evening as the annual members’ meeting will ensure that members who are keen to have their voices heard can do so on the one evening.’
.The Co-op's meetings take place next Tuesday. Members can register at https://bit.ly/3ihPynv.