Wales Co-operative Centre

Canolfan Cydweithredol Cymru

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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

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.

Digital Inclusion is one of our most effective weapons in the fight against poverty

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Get Merthyr Tydfil Online launch

Get Merthyr Tydfil Online Launch: (Left to Right) Angela Jones – Communities 2.0, Derek Walker, Chief Executive Wales Co-operative Centre, Mike Owen, Chief Executive Merthyr Valleys Homes, Eleanor Marks, Welsh Government, Ian Benbow, Head of Service, Social Regeneration, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre, looks at how digital inclusion, financial inclusion and social enterprise support work together to protect people from poverty and to mitigate against its impact.

Today is the launch of Get Swansea Online, a local initiative that aims to help Swansea’s estimated 45,000 digitally excluded residents to use the internet. This is the latest in a series of initiatives brokered by Communities 2.0, the Welsh Government digital inclusion project.

At yesterday’s launch of another initiative, Get Merthyr Tydfil Online, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty Jeff Cuthbert congratulated Communities 2.0 on its collaborative and partnership led approach. He emphasised the importance of helping people to get online and use the internet to save money and to find jobs. He stated that “digital exclusion compounds isolation” and said that Get Merthyr Tydfil Online has the potential to “reach the most digitally and financially excluded citizens” in the county. Last week the Minister visited a similar initiative in the Caia Park area of Wrexham. The political will is certainly there to ensure that everyone in Wales has access to the internet and the skills to use it effectively in the fight against poverty – but there is still more to be done.

We are very lucky here in the Wales Co-operative Centre. Through our work as lead partner of Communities 2.0, and through our own projects on financial inclusion and social enterprise development, we see the positive improvements our interventions can bring to the lives of people in real danger of falling below the bread line. Across Wales we see people, helped by Communities 2.0 and our financial inclusion initiatives, gain IT skills and use those skills to get jobs and get out of debt.  Communities 2.0 recently supported Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent MIND’s social enterprise arm ‘Training in MIND’ with an investment of nearly £5,000. The support will help pay for new laptop and desktop computers in their IT suite. The IT suite is manned by volunteers running drop-in sessions for people to update their IT skills and search for jobs. The organisation is currently setting up a work club for people who attend the centre. This is an excellent example of a social enterprise integrating digital inclusion and anti-poverty measures into its social aims and on the ground delivery.

At the Wales Co-operative Centre we also see the difference in our communities when they are engaged and enabled and can build social enterprises that reinvest their surpluses back into training and job creation. Galeri Caernarfon Cyf is a social enterprise that is focussed on regenerating the town of Caernarfon. Over the years it has regenerated properties and spaces in the town and opened up a highly successful arts centre. It now employs 36 full time equivalent jobs directly and supports over 40 in its tenant businesses. It is estimated that this one social enterprise has an economic impact of almost £1.3m to the economies of Gwynedd and Ynys Môn. In fact, Galeri is among just 6% of firms in Gwynedd that employ more than 25 people.

The Wales Co-operative Centre receives funding from a number of different sources to allow us to deliver our support work to communities across Wales. Our funders include the European Regional Development Fund, Welsh Government and the Oak Foundation.

This year, we have also led on a project which encourages individuals to use the services of local credit unions to help them ensure that their rent payment gets to their landlords – meaning that they can keep a roof over their own and their family’s heads. In Caerphilly, development staff are working directly with individuals to suggest ways in which they can use existing support and advice to make the money they have last longer.

We are also managing and promoting  which offers signposting to advice on saving and loans, debt and benefits. Access to digital resources is now intrinsically linked to good money management and to allowing individuals to take control of their own lives.

Financial and digital inclusion doesn’t just reduce isolation, but it allows freedom, liberty and empowerment. It allows individuals and groups to take their next steps forward – individually in the jobs market or as entrepreneurs, and collectively as empowered communities and social enterprises.

We believe that by integrating financial and digital inclusion with community engagement and real support for social enterprises and charities, it is possible to alleviate some of the poverty that currently exists in Wales. But, just as importantly, we believe that this sort of support is empowering. It allows people to make decisions about their own futures. It allows them to build their skills and their confidence and it empowers individuals to lift themselves out of poverty and stay out of it.

Read all about it – new co-operative newspaper hits the streets!

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A new newspaper for Port Talbot, The Magnet, has hit the streets being distributed free to 20,000 households in Port Talbot over the coming days.

Packed with news, sport and even a crossword, the newspaper, produced by a journalists’ cooperative (Local News South Wales Ltd), is the fulfilment of years of hard work and planning by the dedicated social enterprise team.

Their aim has to be to ensure that a news vacuum, left in Port Talbot when its former weekly newspaper closed down in 2009, can be filled, and that local people can have a news service they can engage with, contribute to and be proud of.

Port Talbot Magnet director Ken Smith said: “This is a great achievement from a small group of people, and one which we aim to build on. We have had a website for a three years, but getting the newspaper out was really important to ensure more people in Port Talbot got the news they were otherwise missing, and to begin the process of building a sustainable business.

“One of our directors Rachel Howells has written a guide to who we are, what we’ve done and where hope to be going. You can read it at . For us to build on this success we now hope to take it to the next stage, and for that we are really needing the help of people who understand social enterprises and can help us realise the advertising potential for the newspaper.

“We set up our business and got our first issue out with excellent support from the Wales Co-operative Centre and the Carnegie Trust and others, but for us to progress now with our vision of maintaining a regular, mass circulation newspaper for Port Talbot and surrounding areas, then we’re looking for of experienced advertising sales reps or agencies that work with and understand social enterprises.”

Port Talbot Magnet can be contacted at or at  or by phoning 07840 168071.

Written by David Madge

September 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Swansea partnership supports Credit Union Rent Account scheme

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It’s Co-operatives Fortnight and Co-operative Congress is only 48 hours away! It’s timely, therefore, to remember the role that credit unions play as community finance co-operatives. Our ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ project has been supporting a scheme that involves Swansea Council and the local credit union, offering customers a rent account, that will help people to manage their money in the face of challenges from Welfare Reform. Swansea Council has provided the following update…

The introduction of Universal Credit (UC) in October 2013 will mean that thousands of council tenants, who currently have their Housing Benefit paid directly into their Council Rent account, will have to manage paying their rent instead. Credit Unions have widely been promoted by the Government as a good way of supporting tenants through Welfare Reforms to manage their finances and ensure that their rent is paid. wallet DSC2089

Swansea Council has therefore joined up with Loans and Savings Abertawe (LASA) Credit Union to offer a scheme to support its tenants to pay their rent. The scheme also focuses on identifying and supporting tenants who may be facing financial difficulties as a result of Welfare Reform.

The scheme was initially developed to support tenants with the transition to direct rent payments under Universal Credit, however it was agreed that the scheme could also be used to support tenants affected by the introduction of the under-occupation rules which came into effect in April this year.

Since April, officers within the Rents Team have been working with new tenants at sign up to determine if this scheme is suitable for them. A special application pack has also been developed to explain the scheme and ensure that they understand how it will operate. This has included discussions with tenants who are affected by the under-occupations charge and who may be facing financial difficulties. The scheme has also been marketed in Open House, the newsletter for council tenants.

Whilst there has been some interest in the scheme to date, it is still early in terms of tenants adjusting to making the under-occupation shortfall payments. It is anticipated that as tenants assess their ability to manage the shortfall over the coming months, they may consider the CU rent account as an option. It is further anticipated that by growing the scheme slowly and working with the Credit Union to develop capacity, it will be ready to support those tenants, who in far greater numbers, will be affected by the roll out of Universal Credit.

Tomorrow (June 27th), Jocelle Lovell and Paul White of the Wales Co-operative Centre’s ‘Tackling Homelessness through Financial Inclusion’ (THFI) team will be running a fringe seminar at the Shelter Cymru conference ‘People & Homes 2013’ that is being held at the Swansea Marriott. For more details on their work, including the ‘THFI toolkit’ visit the Wales Co-operative Centre website.

Written by Mark Smith

June 26, 2013 at 9:33 am

Swansea social enterprise celebrates winning prestigious procurement award

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Swansea training and consultation co-operative, Dynamix has won a prestigious award for procurement at the Welsh National Procurement Awards in Deganwy, North Wales.

The procurement awards aim to highlight the good practice of both procurement teams who purchase services and goods for the public sector, and the businesses that supply them. Dynamix won the ‘Most Improved Supplier Award’ at the ceremony which recognises a supplier who has made use of the support services to improve their tendering methods and thereby improved their chances of winning public sector contracts.

Amy Sanders

Amy Sanders

Dynamix was set up in Swansea 23 years ago and has built up a reputation for working with children, young people and adult community members and the professionals that support these groups.

Amy Sanders is one of the directors of Dynamix. She commented,

“The decision to give the award to Dynamix is a tremendous opportunity to both shine a light on social enterprises and how they can make a meaningful contribution to supply services to local authorities and public bodies.

With such a thriving social enterprise sector in Wales, we believe that a social enterprise succeeding in the Procurement Awards is a sign that the proportion of services supplied to the public sector by social enterprises is growing. Social Enterprises need to be recognised for the additional benefits they bring to the public sector. As award recipients, Dynamix hope we can continue to advise how procurement can be done in a way that values social enterprises and does not disadvantage them.

The tendering process is seen as such an obstacle for some social enterprises and Dynamix are so proud that we have been recognised for the enormous hard work we have invested in order to be able to meet the exacting requirements so that we can compete on an equal playing field. It has really paid off in Dynamix’s ability to secure significant contracts and broaden our work.”

Written by Mark Smith

March 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Social Enterprise Day 2012 – A day in the life of a Care & Repair Services Handyperson Administrator

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A photo of the Care & Repair Swansea staff team

My name is Carys Rumbelow and I am a Handyperson Administrator for the company Care & Repair Services.  I have only been working for Care & Repair Services for 4 months.  We work within the construction industry where we offer a building maintenance and adaptation service.  One of our main clients is Swansea Care & Repair (a charity) which helps older and disabled clients with their home adaption needs, allowing them to remain safe and secure in their own homes for as long as possible.

No day is ever the same. It is good to start out the working day knowing that you are making a difference and improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in South Wales. Working with a fantastic and dedicated team of people is one of the most enjoyable things about my job.

8am – I arrive at work and ready my team of Handypersons to start their daily jobs.  We start the day with a short meeting and cup of hot tea.  This is a good time to discuss any problems from the previous day. My team consists of 7 handypersons and 2 handyperson assistants. Their specialities vary from a qualified plumber, electrician, carpenter and general builders.  The handypersons get their day started by checking that their vans are stocked ready for their list of work for the day.

9am – By this time the Handypersons are out on the vans on the way to their first clients of the day.  My job then is to look over the jobs completed from the previous day ensuring all work has been completed and any notes are inputted onto the diary alongside the relevant job.  I then scan onto the system any assessed works to ensure we have a copy of them before handing the work over to the estimator for costing.

10am – 11am – I start working through my e-mails received from Swansea Care & Repair for requested work to be completed.  I type up a Job Sheet for each request and organise into relevant specialities for each handyperson.  This gives me a chance to also check if any specialised stock needs to be ordered for that work to be completed.

Between 12pm-1pm I take lunch for ½ hour. The short break away from my desk allows me to relax and think about the afternoons tasks.

1pm – After completing all job sheets for the requested works I then provisionally schedule the handypersons into our works diary.  This is sometimes booked as far as 3 weeks in advance.  I then call the client to check that they will be available on that date. If convenient I convert the appointment to confirmed. If the date is not convenient then I will give alternative dates to the client.  This work alone can take all day depending on the number of referral requests we get, throughout the day, from the charity or our own clients.

2pm- Throughout the afternoon I spend my time split between scheduling and organising the handypersons next day.  This includes printing off a diary list of work booked for the following day, making up zip pocket files with all relevant jobsheets and company statutory forms.  I then take them into the warehouse where I put them into the corresponding handypersons pigeon holes for them to collect in the morning.

3pm- Throughout the day I also monitor the phone lines and take new referrals for work.  The handypersons start to return back to base around this time. If there any specific problems that might have arisen I will get involved in solving them. The handypersons also use this time to organise and sort out any stock needed for the next day.

4pm- The day ends. Hopefully everything is organised and sorted for the next day.

For more information on Care & Repair Services, visit

Written by Mark Smith

November 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm

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