Modern Pioneers #5 – Cris Tomos, 4CG
Co-operatives Fortnight runs from 21st June – 5th July. This year, we’re paying tribute to the Rochdale Pioneers who, along with Robert Owen, were among the forefathers of the co-operative movement.
We’re doing so by showcasing the work of 14 ‘Modern Pioneers’ from the Welsh co-operative sector, through a series of blog posts. Today’s post looks at the work of Cris Tomos, from the 4CG community regeneration co-operative in Cardigan.
“I have been involved with the setting up of many co-operatives in West Wales and continue to sit on their board and also volunteer as an adviser. When the primary school closed in my home village of Hermon, North Pembrokeshire in 2004, we were able to create a Community Benefit Co-operative and issue shares to buy the old school site. There is now a thriving community resource centre at Hermon and community activities each day of the week (www.canolfanhermon.org.uk). When our small community in Hermon lost the primary school we had no other meeting place for holding events. The disappointment and frustration was channelled to create an action plan for reversing the rural decline of loss of local services. Having a meeting place for local citizens to develop new initiatives and tackle economic and social challenges has achieved great results.
In 2005 I was a founder member of Credcer Credit Union, which has now grown to offer community banking across the counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. I am the Treasurer of the expanded community bank, which is called West Wales Credit Union. (www.wwcu.co.uk).
In 2010 I became involved with a new co-operative, launched in Cardigan, called 4CG Ltd. The 4CG share offer was embraced by the town and £300,000 of shares were purchased, with a further £250,000 secured through a community peer to peer lending scheme. The funds raised have enabled the co-operative to purchase two car parks, three stores, two shops, two houses, the old Police Station and the old Court House. The land and buildings are being restored, to offer work and rental space for emerging businesses (www.4cg.org.uk).
Finally, I am the chair of Cwm Arian Renewable Energy (CARE), a new co-operative developed to support community energy production. The organisation has submitted planning for two community energy wind turbines, which will generate a net profit of £300,000 per annum for the 20 year duration of the Feed in Tariff scheme. The project will cost £2.2m and ensure that surpluses can be ploughed back into creating new co-operatives, for affordable housing and community workshops. www.cwmarian.org.uk
Putting my voluntary energy into supporting co-operatives has been a very rewarding experience in terms of seeing people gain employment and developing their skills. Many other communities have been to visit our co-operative initiatives and taken back the learning to their own communities.
The group of co-operatives that I have been involved with has seen over 2,500 people becoming member of a co-operative. People can then join the democratic process of ‘one member, one vote’ and shape the future of their community. The take up of the co-operative ideals within our geographical area of operation has been astonishing. People have been able to see that change can happen at grass root level, and that a group of people with vision and ideas can set up a co-operative to make a difference within their community.
The role of co-operatives and mutuals is extremely important and the key is to have the vast majority of local people taking up membership. Having a community co-operative in every neighbourhood would allow the creation of a community action plans, to address the weaknesses and develop the opportunities of the locality. Having co-operative energy companies in each community and town council in Wales would see money spent locally for local benefit. With 730 community and town councils in Wales having a £300,000 per annum, energy generation this would amount to £219,000,000 of additional revenue to communities in Wales per annum.
It is always worthwhile highlighting the efforts of individuals and teams of people to push forward the ideals of co-operation. From the seeds planted by the Rochdale Pioneers in the 1800s, to the immense work being achieved by co-operatives around Wales today. There are many inspiring examples of co-operative organisation achieving great results in Wales in 2014.”
Find out more about the Rochdale Pioneers through a special, interactive photo.