Co-op closer to ending Labour Party payments

Tim Wallace
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TENS of thousands of Co-operative Group members and customers have given the retailer feedback on how it should be run, including whether it is right to give money to the Labour Party, the firm said yesterday.

Chief executive Euan Sutherland has admitted its links with the party have never been clear, indicating it may cut back or end the donations.

The member-owned business has been in crisis since its bank nearly collapsed last summer when a £1.5bn capital black hole was uncovered by financial regulators.

It was also hit by the scandal surrounding former bank chairman Reverend Paul Flowers. He allegedly bought hard drugs and hired rent boys in the months after quitting the position over the capital problems.

Sutherland yesterday admitted Flowers was “just not competent,” admitting in an interview with the Mail on Sunday that “asking Paul Flowers to step down and getting rid of the executive team altogether was the right thing to do.”

In the wake of the scandal Sutherland launched a survey of members and customers in a bid to re-set the firm’s ethical direction and business practices.

The survey asks what the firms should spend its profits on – such as members’ dividends, lower prices, community project or other schemes – as well as how it should be governed and what its political stance should be.

In his interview, Sutherland hinted at ending the links to Labour.

‘I don’t think many people knew we gave money to the Co-operative Labour Party,” he told the Mail. “Even some staff said to us they never knew. It is the weirdest link.”

In the week since it was launched the survey has had more than 80,000 responses the group said.

“The public’s views will directly influence our wider strategic review, the results of which will be unveiled in May, but the strength of the response so far shows how important it is that we get this right,” said Sutherland in a statement.