Co-op considers cutting its ties to Labour Party

Tim Wallace
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THE CO-OPERATIVE Group is considering cutting its historic ties with the Labour Party as it looks to reform its structure in the wake of the Paul Flowers scandal.

The retail and banking group’s reputation has taken a series of devastating blows after its banking arm nearly collapsed in the summer, and allegations of drug abuse emerged against the bank’s chairman at the time.

As a result of the woes it lost its 100 per cent ownership of the lender.

The group is now beginning the process of trying to win back customer trust by asking members and shoppers what they think of its core purpose.

A major survey will cover topics from what customers think of the goods and services on offer at the group, through to how the profits are shared and what the firm should stand for.

The study will extend to more philosophical questions, including the customers’ views of the role of big businesses in society and how firms they can be a force for good.

And it will enter the political sphere, asking members if they still want to give money to Labour.

“In recent years the Co-operative has lost touch with its customers and members and with the communities in which it operates – we haven’t been listening,” said chief executive Euan Sutherland.

“We have seen incredible loyalty from our customers, colleagues and members in recent months – now we want to reward that loyalty.”

However, business analysts said the survey will not help.

“If it is interested in rebuilding participation, the Co-op Group needs address the growing gap between senior management and the membership base,” said Andre Spicer from Cass Business School.

“A frequent complaint among Co-op members is that the group is too large, too centralised, and too dominated by a cadre of professional managers.”

“This survey will not re-engage jilted members. What they want is opportunities to engage in discussion and participate.”