Wales needs to embrace co-operatives for bright economic future, says report to Welsh Government
The report, prepared by the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission under the chair of Professor Andrew Davies, was commissioned by Minister for Economy Edwina Hart. It sets out 25 recommendations on creating a culture and environment in which co-operative ways of doing business are the norm, not the exception.
The report was launched by the Minister on a visit with Professor Davies to Accommodation Furniture Solutions in Swansea, a co-operative set up by seven former Remploy workers.
Mrs Hart said:
“I am very grateful to Professor Andrew Davies and the Commission for their work in producing this comprehensive report. The report recognises the many benefits of co-operative and mutual business models and makes a strong case for developing them further. I will give a full response to each of the recommendations in the report in due course. However, in principle I am minded to accept all of the recommendations that fall within my area of responsibility.”
Professor Davies, Chair of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission, said:
“The Commission believes strongly that conventional approaches to economic development are not enough alone to deliver the long-term improvements needed for the Welsh economy. Co-operatives and mutuals offer significant economic, social and environmental benefits compared with ordinary business and have the potential to transform our economic fortunes, as well as improve our public services.
“Wales, the birth place of Robert Owen, one of the founders of the co-operative movement, has a long tradition of co-operative business which continues to this day. The global banking and economic crisis of 2007 has led many to question the traditional economic and business models. Now is the time to embrace our co-operative tradition in Wales and bring it in from the side-lines to the heart of our economy.”
The report’s recommendations cover how to integrate co-operatives and mutuals into education; government business advice and support; investment finance; planning; and public procurement. It also makes a number of recommendations on how the Welsh Government can encourage innovation amongst co-operative enterprises and how the co-operative and mutual movement can increase its voice, influence and capacity.
Accommodation Furniture Solutions has doubled its workforce since company was formed in October last year and now employs 14 former Remploy staff.
Managing Director Kevin Edwards said:
“With this new worker co-operative, we aim to develop a successful and profitable business and become a leading manufacturer and sub-contracting assembler within the UK market. As we grow, we intend to operate as a financially viable workers co-operative which supports our disabled and disadvantaged workforce and offers training and employment opportunities to the wider Swansea community.”
There will be a period of consultation on the recommendations of the report.