Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

Posts Tagged ‘co-operatives

Welsh social businesses make ‘Top 300’ list

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Would you be surprised to know that the latest edition of a list, charting Wales’ top 300 firms, contains a number of companies that are, in some way, social businesses?

Well, that’s the case in this year’s Top 300 list, published by The Western Mail in association with the University of South Wales.

At least eight businesses on the list work to social objectives, in different ways, with one in the top five. On turnover alone (£736.5m), Dŵr Cymru Cyfyngedig is the leading operating social enterprise in Wales.

There are two mutuals on the list – Principality (18th) and Monmouthshire Building Society (106th). Other social enterprises in the top 300 include the Wales Millennium Centre (267) and Cartrefi Cymru, which supports adults with learning disabilities and autism (290).

Shaw Healthcare

Shaw Healthcare

Shaw Healthcare is the leading co-operative on the list, at 64th. Dulas, which is a worker co-op in the renewable energy sector, comes in at 299.

You’d be forgiven for overlooking Swansea City AFC, which occupies 92nd place in this particular table. The Premier League football club is part-owned by Swansea City Supporters’ Trust, which is a form of co-operative.

It’s also encouraging to see the Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) in the top 300, at 281, as the umbrella organisation for the voluntary sector in Wales.

To make the list is no mean feat. To quote David Pickernell, professor of economic development policy and director of the Centre for Enterprise, University of Wales School of Business, “To be included in the Top 300, companies have to have a significant and identifiable management and trading presence in Wales. The order of the list is determined by the last recorded turnover”. While highlighting that five of the top ten in the list are ‘home-grown’ companies – including Glas Cymru Cyfyngedig (the parent company of Dŵr Cymru Cyfyngedig) – Professor Pickernell goes on to make another important point that is relevant to the social business sector: “Many of the companies in this year’s Top 300 would have started out as small businesses. We therefore also need to focus on developing entrepreneurial mindsets, behaviours and skills in our young people so that they can meet and overcome the challenges that lie before us all, and more importantly help Wales retain the talent which will put us at the forefront of the coveted knowledge-based, creative, growing economy that we all wish to see”.



This point was perfectly complemented by a special feature in the Top 300 supplement, published by the Western Mail last week, which highlights the winners of this year’s Social Enterprise Awards Wales. That particular list of winners includes Monwel Signs Ltd, which took the ‘One to Watch’ prize at the recent UK Social Enterprise Awards.

It is essential that social businesses are seen as part of a mixed economy in Wales, offering opportunities for growth and sustainability just like any other form of business. Let’s hope those that have made this year’s Top 300 help to inspire more social businesses to make the list in 2015.

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Written by Mark Smith

December 16, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Rural Development Plan – Social enterprise in rural communities

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The Wales Co-operative Centre welcomes the Welsh Governments proposals for the Rural Development Plan (RDP) 2014 to 2020. We particularly welcome the focus on the role locally-led social enterprises can play in securing local basic services. Locally-led social enterprises delivering local basic services bring added-value benefits. They help to increase community spirit and build community identity as they bring people together to work towards shared aims. They also produce local solutions to local problems and needs by providing services designed and delivered locally. Furthermore, they have a measurable economic benefit. They provide jobs, training and stimulate the local economy. For example, Deudraeth Cyf works with unemployed people, disabled people and housing associations amongst others. They offer a variety of IT courses in Penrhyndeudraeth and in other locations in Gwynedd. Community-based social enterprises have also been established to take ownership of under-threat key services, such as Llanmadoc Siop y Bobl in Gower. You can read more about community-led co-operatives in our report ‘Community Co-operatives in Wales – Ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.

While the RDP proposals recognise the role of local social enterprises delivering and securing local services, it falls short of recognising their full potential for jobs and growth. The Wales Co-operative Centre would welcome greater emphasis on the ability of social enterprises to make a significant impact to the Welsh rural economy through jobs and growth. Social enterprise is a way of doing business that delivers sustainable economic growth while fostering positive social change and innovation. Social enterprises are anchored in their communities and any investment in social enterprises stays in the community and is recycled for wider economic and social benefits. While they often operate in hard to reach, economically challenged communities they employ more people relative to turnover than other businesses.


Written by Ieuan Nash

May 28, 2014 at 8:59 am

Congratulations to Siop Y Bobl on the launch of their new shop premises

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Today, one of the co-operatives the Wales Co-operative Centre helped set up in Gower is launching its new village shop premises.

Siop Y Bobl in Llanmadoc was formed by a group of volunteers from the village after the shop and post office that serviced the village closed down. The Wales Co-operative Centre helped the group to set up as a co-operative (registered as an Industrial and Provident Society) and helped develop their business plan.

The shop now provides a wide range of products from fresh goods, home baking, frozen and chilled foods, an off-license, post office and coffee shop. It buys its produce and goods from local producers or suppliers, helping to keep them in business and retaining income in the area.

Siop y Bobl has won numerous awards including the Welsh Volunteers Award, the Best New Business Award, Best Village in South Wales and Best Community in Wales. The members attribute part of their success to the advice they have received from the co-operative movement. Membership is open to anyone in the area who wants to join – without them Siop y Bobl would not exist.

One of the most significant benefits of the co-operative comes from its 50 plus volunteers, many of whom are local people who have retired. The shop is a “social hub” where people can meet and get together on a daily basis, especially people who live on their own and would not see other people.

Siop y Bobl firmly believes that having co-operative principles has meant that a “dying rural community” has been able to thrive. They purchase from 37 local or very local businesses which also helps the wider Welsh economy. Siop y Bobl has faced a number of challenges along the way, especially relating to its premises. After a long period of planning and construction the business has now moved into new premises on the main road through the village.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre we have been proud to support this community enterprise and wish them well in their new premises and for a long future as the hub of the community of Llanmadoc.

Branwen Ellis is a Business Consultant at the Wales Co-operative Centre. She is an expert on co-operatives, social enterprises and governance.

Written by David Madge

May 23, 2014 at 10:33 am

The Myners’ Report on the Co-operative Group

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The Myners’ Report on the Co-operative Group

The keenly anticipated Myners’ report into issues at the troubled Co-operative Group was published yesterday. Myners doesn’t pull any punches. He talks about a ‘manifestly dysfunctional board’ and comes to a view that there is a limited shared purpose among Group board directors. He goes on to propose a slimmed down board made up of independent directors and executives of the Group.

Everyone agrees that there is a need for radical reforms at the Co-operative Group and in her initial response the Chair, Ursula Lidbetter, has already indicated that the report will be taken seriously. Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK has stated that there are welcome signs of emerging consensus over the need for change and renewal, which is positive.

It is absolutely right that the Co-operative Board needs to contain people with the appropriate skills to run the business. All businesses need to keep on top of this and the Co-operative Group is no exception.

There is concern amongst some Co-operative Group members about the potential for a weaker link between the membership and the Group. The report proposes a National Members Council, with significant representation from staff, but suggests reducing or removing representation on the Board itself.

The whole point of a co-operative is that it operates on behalf of its members. That connection is vital to a co-operative’s competitive advantage and its ability to respond to the needs of its members. One of the main reasons many of us shop at Co-operative supermarkets and pharmacies is because we know we are buying quality products, procured on ethical grounds with profits returning to people in our own communities, not distant shareholders.

The co-operative sector is much broader than just the Co-operative Group of course. There are hundreds of independent co-operative businesses across Wales, operating in a wide range of areas from food to furniture-making and from health to housing. Many of these have benefited in the past from support funded by the Group as part of its commitment to support other co-operatives. Research shows that the sector has done better than other mainstream businesses during the downturn. The co-operative model is a tried and tested one.

The Co-operative Group has faced difficult times before and has come through them. With thousands of people employed in its businesses across Wales, the future success of the organisation is crucially important to the Welsh economy. We wish it well as it implements the necessary reforms over the months and years ahead.

Read the full Myners’ report here 

Derek Walker, Chief Executive, Wales Co-operative Centre

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 2

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Earlier in the week, Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, started to look back on the last financial year and the work we had been involved with. We continue Derek’s review, by looking at how the Centre supports some of the most disadvantaged people and communities…

Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, with Tracy Olin of PATCH

Jeff Cuthbert, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, with Tracy Olin of PATCH

The work of the Centre is closely aligned with the wider tackling poverty agenda. In October we instigated an online campaign ‘Tackling Poverty Fortnight’ that not only received recognition in the Senedd, but demonstrated ways in which social enterprises and co-operative ways of working are supporting people in Wales’ most disadvantaged areas.

Our financial inclusion work continues to have an influence and impact in this area, particularly through our Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion project. That team has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and increase the uptake of Credit Union Rent Accounts, which can help housing tenants, across private, social and council housing, to maintain their tenancies in the face of sweeping Welfare Reforms. This work benefits from close work relationships with housing providers and other partners. More recently, I did my own bit to raise awareness of the issues facing homeless people, in the inaugural Cardiff CEO Sleepout. That event reminded me of the value of our work, with those that need the greatest support.

The latest evaluation of our Social Enterprise Support Project was positive, including lines such as “satisfaction levels with Development Officers support is very high – ‘extremely’ or ‘very satisfied’ at 87%”. In this area of work, we also delivered another successful Social Enterprise Wales Conference and Awards and the new ‘Go Full Circle’ campaign that increased awareness raising of Welsh social enterprises among the general public. Last summer, Cardiff played host to the annual Co-operatives UK Congress that saw more than 300 co-operators come together, to debate issues that matter most to those in the sector.

Our Corporate Services have continued to strengthen the Centre’s corporate governance, financial processes, HR and ICT infrastructure – all vital work, while the Marketing team re-structure is providing a more effective approach to the way we promote our services and raising awareness of our work, that of our clients and the wider sector.

The last financial year also saw us intensify international links, with staff making trips to Africa, to support community enterprises, and participating in an exchange with representatives of the social enterprise sector in the Czech Republic. It is important to be involved with such activities, so we can promote the best of what Wales has to offer in terms of co-operative and social enterprise development, on the world stage, and so we can learn from best practice approaches in other countries.

Greeted by schoolchildren in Lesotho, where we supported community enterprises last year.

Greeted by schoolchildren in Lesotho, where we supported community enterprises last year.

While there is a rich diversity to our work, with many seemingly independent activities, one thing binds it together – a co-operative ethos that sees projects, initiatives, organisations, businesses and individuals getting more from working together. It’s at the heart of everything we do.

When you think about it, that’s some year…..and we haven’t covered everything in this blog post!

As we look ahead to the next twelve months, we know there are challenges ahead but we can meet them head on, with confidence. That confidence comes from the knowledge that we are a strong organisation, with experienced and innovative staff, that make a difference in communities around Wales every day of the week.

Reflecting on the last 12 months – part 1

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With the new financial year barely a week old, Derek Walker, our Chief Executive, has taken the opportunity to look back on the last twelve months at the Wales Co-operative Centre….

Derek Walker

Derek Walker

I was recently looking through the posts on our blog site from the last twelve months. I was struck by the realisation that we have covered an awful lot of ground as an organisation. In addition, the scale of our output is matched by the quality and impact of our work.

It’s a healthy thing to look back at what has gone before, as you can learn from experience and take confidence from what has gone well. Another thing that occurred to me was the rich diversity of our work.

Since the start of the last financial year, some new clients have emerged. To highlight just a few – AFS in Swansea, where former Remploy staff came together to form a worker co-operative that has already proven successful. The Cambrian Village Trust social enterprise, in Clydach Vale, was supported to open a new, world class, all-weather football pitch. PS Services, a social business run by mental health charity Gofal, won the ‘One to Watch’ category at the UK Social Enterprise Awards. Many other businesses that we’ve supported have gone from strength to strength, showing that co-operatives and social enterprises are models for growth, as well as sustainability.

Elsewhere in the Centre, we’ve received additional funding from Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund to expand the area covered by Communities 2.0, to now help people in the most deprived parts of Cardiff, Newport, Vale of Glamorgan and Monmouthshire make the most of computers and the Internet. Communities 2.0 has also seen a number of county-wide initiatives launch in the last year, heavily based on strong partnership work – bringing the people and organisations together than can make a real difference.

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Accommodation Furniture Solutions Ltd

Our co-operative housing project has been extended for another two years. More groups around Wales are talking to us, and our partners, about the potential to develop co-operative housing schemes in their community, giving people more direct control over their living arrangements.

The year’s watershed moment came with the publication of the Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission report. Led by Professor Andrew Davies, the Commission has concluded that “conventional approaches to economic growth and development are not sufficient alone to achieve the improvement in the social and economic wellbeing of people in Wales”, adding “co-operatives and mutuals offer significant economic, social and environmental benefits compared with ordinary businesses. Their development must be central to transforming Wales’ economic fortunes”. These words come as a clarion call to those involved in the co-operatives and mutuals sector, as well as those on the fringes who have yet to realise the full potential of co-operative approaches to economic development. The report’s recommendations are currently being discussed at a series of consultation events and it will be interesting to hear how others think they should be taken forward. The report’s recommendations have the Centre’s full support.

Join us for the second part of this blog post, later in the week…

Egni Co-operative Share Offer – co-operative energy generation in the community

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Egni Co-operative Share Offer - co-operative energy generation in the community

Egni Co-operative was established by Awel Aman Tawe, a community renewable energy charity in South Wales, with the purpose of placing Solar PV panels on community buildings. To raise the necessary funds, Egni launched a share offer in the Senedd on February 6th which has raised £55,000 since its launch. The share offer runs until April 3rd.

In this guest blog, Dan McCallum from Egni explains more:

“At Awel Aman Tawe we work to raise awareness of clean, renewable, sustainable energy sources, and promote their use throughout the local community.

It’s the sort of project we all want to see – solar panels on key local community buildings. We surveyed about 35 buildings in total and chose the best ones for the project. There are 7 community buildings making up the project, and we’re seeking to fund the capital costs from a co-operative share offer.

Some of these buildings are well known social enterprises. Dove Workshop in Banwen and Glynneath Training Centre both offer training, community cafes, a crèche and a local hub. Perhaps less well known is Brynaman Public Hall and Institute – funded by the miners in the 1920s, run by volunteers, and now housing the largest cinema screen in Wales, alongside the most fantastic Art Deco interior.

All the buildings will benefit from free electricity from the panels, which will also save more than 1000 tonnes of CO2 over the project lifetime.

So why have we formed as a co-operative? There are several reasons. There has been a great increase in energy co-ops in England and Scotland which we’ve been able to learn from. That has been because public grants cannot pay for panels as it would disqualify the scheme from the Feed-in Tariff(FiT) . Co-operatives which raise money from the general public can benefit from the FiT, as the money generated from them comes back into the co-operative for the benefit of the members.

Setting up as a co-operative also means Egni will be run on a one member, one vote basis, This gives everyone who invests in the project an equal say in how it is managed, no matter how much they initially put in. Also, co-operatives, unlike charities, were able to pre-register for the FiT and have the rate maintained for a year. Egni took advantage of this by registering all the sites in June 2013 which means that we can take advantage of the higher rates that were available at that time.

We also want people in Wales to make more use of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme. More details can be found on the HMRC website Last week, we had the great news that our application for pre-registration for SEIS has been approved by HMRC. Tax relief is not just for the wealthy – it is likely to apply to many share applicants who are taxpayers. In short, your investment may significantly reduce your income tax bill. Here’s how it can work:

In this example, Jenny is a qualifying taxpayer who invests £1,000 in SEIS qualifying shares. The SEIS relief available is £500 (£1,000 at 50%). If her income tax liability for the year (before SEIS relief) was, for example, £4,000, she could reduce it to £3,500 as a result of her investment.

This is your chance to invest in something Welsh, sustainable and democratic. Egni is about bringing local communities together, to invest in green technology that will bring great benefits to those communities for years to come. If you’d like to play a part in that, then you can download our Share Offer Document and application form at

Dan McCallum, Director of Egni Cydweithredol Cyfyngedig Ltd

Egni is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as an Industrial and Provident Society, Registration Number 32008R.

For more information on Egni, visit, or phone 01639 830870.

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