Saturday, 31 March 2007

Hillary Benn spotted in local Co-op

"They are a tasty treat - and government minister Hilary Benn was delighted when he visited a Manchester store to see how fairtrade Easter eggs are flying off the shelves." - Manchester Evening News. He's was in the United Co-op in Burnage. He also managed to meet plenty of voters and City Council candidates Frank Duffy (Burnage) and John Hacking (Chorlton Park).

Full story - Manchester Online.
Hillary Benn Drops By - ChorltonParkLabor

Withington Selection Meeting

Lucy Powell was selected as Withington Constituency Labour Party candidate to fight the next Parliamentary Election. "We can now look forward to persuading the citizens of Manchester Withington to back Lucy with the same vigour as their local Labour Party have done." quoting the LoL website written by Labour Party and Co-op Party member Chris Paul. I was going to write about the long afternoon we all spent listening to speeches, questions and waiting for the postal votes to be verified. But in the end it was good to see a lot of people whom I've not seen for ages (haven't been out much). The fight to re-gain the seat from the Lib-Dems continues....

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Cheesemaker Co-op Webcam

Nomination meeting, mergers meetings, local elections all to come...but let's have a little distraction with West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers Co-operative and the maturing of a Cheddar Cheese. Euro skeptics notice the Protection of Origin Symbol (DOP). I understand it's a Co-operative like most of the dairy industry but their website doesn't mention that word.

Live Webcam on the farm see

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

City Buildings

City Building
This fine old building sits on a triangle of land between the Co-operative Bank and Victoria Station. Soon to be redeveloped by the Maghull Group. Does that mean demolition, or a new use? Sums of 25 million GBP are mentioned on the website. I emailed for information but no reply. But back in 1877 until the end of the 19th century a couple of rooms in here was home to the Co-operative Insurance Company (the CIS name came later). All the business was transacted with a few clerks with scratchy ink pens. They didn't buy a typewriter until 1890, and the new-fangled telephone wasn't installed until 1892.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

South Manchester Members Group April

I know most of us members of Withington Co-op Party will be working in the local elections during April....but if you fancy an evening off from leaflets or canvassing....

The next meeting of the South Manchester Co-op Member’s Group will be on Wednesday 18th April at Hardy Lane C-op Hall at 1930h. The guest speaker will be Sonya McCann from People in Need. This is a self-help project of grandmothers in South Africa who make and sell traditional bead ware. They all have grandchildren orphaned by HIV- AIDS. The money raised supports these orphaned grandchildren. She will bring samples of beadwork to sell at the meeting.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Co-op Members Benefits

If you are a member of a co-operative there should be some benefits attached. The proposed amalgamation of United and Group doesn't explain any of the proposed benefits. To be fair it's early days. Both Societies have different ways of rewarding their members. From the Group, I get a cheque once a year just for having insurance and some banking with them. As a member of United Co-op we receive a calendar - colour picture recipe, plus vouchers for each month e.g. spend 10 quid (GBP) and get 1 quid (GBP) off your bill. Even better vouchers are available for attending the twice yearly meetings. Both have different styles in running Members Relations, and the dividend card to accrue points for purchases. United Co-operative have recently lowered the threshold to trigger a payment to a realistic yearly spend of 250 GBP (it's easy to for me to spend 10 GBP a week in a United Co-op store as I like their wines)

It won't be the place to ask these questions at the "merger meetings" in April and May because the membership reward system will be subject to debate and the financial realities of any new Society. So, we the members won't know what 2008 will bring?

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Co-operative Grocery Not Dead Yet?

Full page article in the current Co-op News from one of the founders of Unicorn Co-operative Grocery in Chorlton. Some thought provoking commentary, enough for discussion and better still action. We have a copy of the original document "Co-operative Grocery - Not Dead Yet? from which some of the article is drawn. Interesting ideas to revitalise the co-operative offer?
Pdf - a mere 3.5 pages 45kb

Friday, 23 March 2007

Financial Mutuals Bill

House of Commons had the Second Reading of the Financial Mutuals (Arrangements) Bill, which will make it easier for different types of financial mutuals to merge amongst other things. Proposed by Sir John Butterfill MP (Conservative; Bournemouth West), a long-standing supporter of the mutual sector.

Commenting on the bill, Sir John said: “"Having mutuals in financial services benefits everyone, but especially consumers who get better rates on their savings, mortgages and insurance, as well as more branches being kept open. If passed, this legislation will help to ensure that societies have access to the right type of finance if needed, consumers are even better protected, and the mutual sector could be strengthened by allowing assets and members to stay in the sector if mutuals want to merge."
(story from Mortgage Solutions)

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

South Manchester Group

Gave a talk tonight about "Unicorn Co-operative Grocery" to the South Manchester Co-operative Members Group, a small but very active little organisation funded by United Co-operatives. There were a few Co-op Party members present, a few from the Woodcraft Folk, Members Relations and others. I think it went well, lots of questions, very friendly.

However the best bit of the meeting was the business afterwards. "Serious Fury" about the events for the World Co-op Day at the Lowry, Salford in July. It sounds like a packed afternoon of theatre, cinema, music, a market. Put me down it's a good Sunday afternoon. But, having two competitions for photography and arts got the backs up at the meeting. Hadn't they heard of co-operative games? Not inviting the Milnrow Brass Band but another "good band but not quite premier league" miffed somebody else. All good humoured. Decent coffee, tea, cake and mini jaffa cakes passed around. Glad I went. Next meeting April 18th.

Record Fairtrade Sales

Looks like all the publicity and promotions for Fairtrade Fortnight have paid off with record sales for Co-operative Societies. Reported big increases in fairtrade sales - United Co-operative up 157 per cent, Co-operative Group up 47 per cent, Midlands Co-op up 47 per cent & so on....
(photo from Co-op News)

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

AFC Bournemouth No Longer Mutual

This month the Co-op Party is highlighting of Community Sports. But this week it's a change of ownership at Bournemouth football club which pioneered ownership by fans.
"Sad though it is in some respects to see Bournemouth’s experiment with co-operative ownership by the Fans Community Mutual come to an end, the club has debts estimated at more than £3.5m and was facing the very real threat of going out of business."
(from SoCalledSmallerClubs where I found this story).
The controlling interest was purchased for 750,000 GBP though it's going to take a lot more money to keep it going. News Story.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Guardians of Hebden Bridge

It's Guardian readers territory in our part of Manchester, but this is the Co-op in Hebden Bridge on Saturday morning. They've already sold half a trolley of them. Thanks to my neighbour Colin for the picture. If you wish to read some history with pictures of co-operation in Hebden and nearby towns the go to Milltown Memories

Andy Walsh at AGM

Our Chair, Paul Murphy was at the Manchester Area Co-op Party, well he has to be - he's the Chair of that body too. Andy Walsh of FC United was the invited speaker, and I quote "was brilliant". There will be some financial help coming from the Co-op Society, and the Party - adverts in programmes, sponsoring match balls & etc.

"He was saying that FC United are the only true, football supporters run co-op. That is an I&PS (Industrial & Provident Society). He also said it was against the Football League's rules to have co-op football clubs. That can be our next campaign although he did say it probably would not be needed for a few years."

If by football miracle of six successive promotions, I reckon that would be 2011. The Football League has a long history of being against "wider" club ownership going back to 1919 when they stopped "football on the rates" with Chesterfield Municipal FC.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Supporters Direct

This month the Co-operative Party has a focus on "Community Based Sport". It's not a band wagon topic. Thinking back to 1999 "A Golden Goal" by Jonathan Michie was published, then it appeared as an optimistic hope of what could be a possibility. Still available - Download (PDF - 28 pages - text). To see how far the vision has come then Download (PDF - 32 pages) the latest Supporters Direct magazine for March 2007. It's got pictures, success stories, grassroots, enthusiasm, small changes, and outside the Premiership this might be the future of football. Get this, the Scotland section are based in Robert Owen House (87 Bath Street G2 2EE).

Thursday, 15 March 2007

New Co-op Bike Store

Next Thursday the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative will be opening a store in Manchester. This will be their 5th. Situated at 7 Wilmslow Road (opposite Whitworth Park) on the busiest bus route in Europe - so need to take the car to visit. It looks pretty large and very much like a modern coffee shop. We'll be down there for a visit, some accessory purchases and picture snapping. There are special offers on : send your name and address to manchester AT I'm not sure how all of this will effect the nearby Bicycle Doctor (Workers' Co-operative at 70 Dickinson Road ).
Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative (founded 1977)

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Country Markets Co-operative

Until I read the current Co-operative News (6th - 20th March) I must confess to not knowing about this co-operative (trading since 1919, registered 1932). That's living in a big city for you.
• Anyone over 16, with suitable produce to sell, may apply to join.
• All goods must be genuinely home-produced.
• It costs only 5 pence to join!
• All Country Markets are run co-operatively; no-one has their own table.
• Everyone is expected to take their turn manning the stalls and helping to run the market.
• There are no minimum quantities to produce – start small and build up.
• A small commission (usually about 10%) is taken from sales to cover market running expenses; the rest is paid to the producer monthly.

There are 450 outlets in England, Wales & CI. Unfortunately none around here, unless we start one. The nearest are places like Macclesfield, Frodsham and Holmfirth.
Full details on the website.

Community Sports Ownership

This month the Co-operative Party has announced its policies on Community Sports Ownership. In particular the Olympic Games 2012 - a proposal for a mutually run community based "People's Games". They have a point are we not paying for this big sports show out of our taxes.
Executive Summary - Download (PDF 127kb)
I assume there will be a Full Text version to follow, either that or I couldn't find it. New policy documents are being released every month - see Policies

Closer to home, the supporters owned, FC United of Manchester have published a newsletter. Issue one is available now, featuring... Margy the manager, the season so far, Schoolgirls Cup, People United Day (ant-racism) & the AGM Report. Download (PDF 4 pages in colour)

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Photo Archive : Merseybank

MerseybankMerseybank Co-op
chorltonparklabour was a weblog entry about the old Co-op stores at 36-38 Merseybank Avenue, Chorlton. This is a very run down block of shops with many of the properties owned by absentee landlords (Channel Islands property companies?).

Chorlton Arts Festival 2007

At our AGM we agreed to make a small donation to Chorlton Arts Festival 2007 - the cheque is in the post. The annual event usually attracts sponsorship from United Co-op Members Relations, and support from Unicorn Co-operative Grocery. The brochure is now being finalised and details will appear on the website soonish. The events run from Saturday 19th May (FA Cup day) until Saturday 26th May.

"Chorlton Arts Festival is looking for makers, artists, designers etc to be part of the Arts & Crafts Market @ Festival Saturday May 19. Taking place at St Clements Church.

The event will be an opportunity for makers at all stages in their careers to sell their wares to the public for a nominal fee of £7. The only stipulation is that your craft (be it anything from jewellery to jam) should be handmade and your own work. As places are strictly limited, there will be a selection process after all applications are received. But we will do our best to house as many as possible! " Email lovely-lee-loo AT for more information or to receive an application form.

If you're interested there are some short video clips I made during the 2006 Festival. Link.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Positive Co-op News

THE Old Crown pub (a co-operative) at Hesket Newmarket (the proposed summer Co-op Party / Members Group trip) will become smoke-free from Monday – nearly four months before a nationwide smoking ban comes into force. Story

Plans to set up a solar powered co-operative by residents in Guelph, Ontario (no summer trips planned). Story.

The Government of Japan 89,000 USD grant to the Blue Mountain Coffee Co-operative, Jamaica. "Japanese Ambassador Masahiro Obata said the grant will allow the BMCC to be a model of "alternate energy" and "consumption-clean energy". Link. Now I know why Blue Mountain coffee is expensive most of it goes to Japan.

In Frodsham (Cheshire) the Co-operative Women’s Guild (still going, the Guilds that used to active here have long since vanished) are fervent supporters of Fair Trade products. Fairtrade Frenzy from the blog of Sajjad Karim MEP

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Fairtrade #3

Fair Trade Stall 1 Fair Trade Stall 2
Last day of Fairtrade Fortnight and we caught up with a stall outside Hardy Lane Co-op. Besides the samples of fairtrade "Divine" chocolate was a Healthy Eating survey. Is there any irony here? A few questions to try and assess people's barriers to eating a good diet. This is part of the Food Futures initiatives in Manchester. All can I say is they've got their work cut out in this section of the City.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Conservative co-operates for mutual benefit

"A Conservative MP has tabled legislation to allow mutuals to transfer ownership to co-ops in a bid to discourage demutualisation.

The Financial Mutuals (Arrangements) Bill, sponsored by Bournemouth West MP Sir John Butterfill, has proposed that mutuals be able to transfer engagements to other types of mutuals, which are not in the same category (e.g. building society to co-operative)."
Full text from Co-op News at Politicsforpeople

The Bill will receive its second reading in the House of Commons on Friday March 23rd. We'd better get onto MPs to see if they can support the bill.

Looking at the first reading it has cross-bench support - I can see a Lib-Dem, a few Labour / Co-operative MP's, and Plaid Cymru. Hansard 1st reading (scroll down - bill 23)

Freedom Clothing Co-operative

Seek and for you shall find it on the web....
"Freedom Clothing Project is a co-operative set up to source excellent quality ethically produced products for customers....made in Palestine t-shirts, bags and hoodies. " Based in Coventry, UK.

"Membership is open to anyone who is passionate about the aims of the Freedom Clothing Project (subject to acceptance by the next Directors Meeting) and we hope in the future will include factory workers as well as consumers and friends."
Freedom Clothing


You might think this blog strays beyond Co-operative Party politics but that's the way of our meetings. It's because all our members have interests in the wider sphere of politics and community action. Tigmoo is a network for UK trade union blogs and bloggers. The volunteer-run currently draws together 30 blogs from across the union movement. They were impressed with Bloggers4Labour, which is a very successful blog aggregator, and thought that something a bit like that might be useful to union bloggers in the UK.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Photo Archive

Didsbury Co-op
Co-op Store in Didsbury 1000h on a Saturday - does nobody get up early at the weekend?

One of the discussion points at the AGM was recording the old Co-op buildings, and this can be extended to current buildings. So if you're out and about with a digital camera, or your camera-phone and see something of interest then snap it. Either upload it to some photo sharing site and email the link, or email it here (my broadband can handle a big file).

Discovered a good collection of photos by coophistorian on Flickr. He's been uploading pictures on co-ops past and present in the Midlands. John Hacking of chorltonparklabour sent us some in last month - see a previous entry.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Hesketh Co-op Brewery

One of the requests at the AGM last week was a trip to the Hesketh Co-op Brewery up there in Lake District land. Nice story at Politics For People with links. We can make that coach trip when the weather gets better, elections are over, and you won't be buying any gasoline. Pack those sandwiches, it's a trip, if you're up for it.

You Local Credit Union

South Manchester Credit Union members enjoying Fair Trade refreshments provided by United Co-op after the AGM.

The South Manchester Credit Union held its AGM last night and in the spirit of co-operation during Fair Trade fortnight United Co-op kindly provided the Fair Trade refreshments. The Credit Union has over 1200 members. Since it started on 1st October 2000, it has loaned out £1.7 million. If you would like to join South Manchester's largest financial co-operative contact Sandra or Janet in our office on 0161 448 0200.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Speaking At

It's all network - everyone is in each others Co-operative and Labour group. The South Manchester Co-op Member's Group is a thriving little voluntary organisation holding regular meetings at the Hardy Lane, Co-op Rooms. Their next meeting is Wednesday 21st March at 1930h. Their planned speaker has had to cancel, and Angela Downing who is Secretary collared me at last night's Merger Meeting as a replacement. So you've got a talk about "Unicorn Co-operative Grocery" instead - life in a workers' co-op plus the usual digression into food issues that face the UK. It'll be good, as long as I can remember the answers. I gave a similar talk to Trafford Co-op Party about a year ago, and that was so successful that they all turned up at the store a couple of weeks later for a guided tour.

Further meetings are trips to Toad Lane, Rochdale on Saturday 14th April by train and minibus, and a coach trip to some places in North Wales on Sunday 24th June. Something is going on in May but the note I've got is a bit cryptic it just mentions an application for a postal vote?

Monday, 5 March 2007

Merger Meeting

United Co-op amalgamation with Co-operative Group - briefing meeting, no voting required. There is a 24 page booklet to go with the event - see blurred photo above.

We're in a room of the Palace Hotel, Manchester. I'm impressed by the high ceilings, tiles and the Alfred and Peter Waterhouse architecture (it used to be the Refuge Assurance building, and it is a gem of late Victorian design). Attendance is about 65 members, and some of them clearly don't like the coffee or the venue. Two speakers, some slides and Duncan Bowdler (Co-op Party member and Director ) doing his calm chairing and fielding questions.

Will the merger go ahead? Judging by tonights questions, and members who don't ask questions but like to hear their voice with an audience, I would say yes. The realisation that the Co-op might not be trading in 10 years in face of the competition has hit home - 4% of grocery turnover and still falling (Tesco 30%, other three have 45%). As was said a few times at tonight's meeting - why wasn't this happening 7 years ago? A national Co-op Society, as recommended by the Co-operative Commission last century - eventually but the wheels of legacy move very, very slowly.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Bloggers For Labour

If you haven't discovered Bloggers4Labour yet, then get over there straight way. An excellent portal into all those who are tap, tap tapping those stories to the web. My prediction is that blogging will feature as key campaigning tool in the next General Election. Getting the message across at a local level, and building support.

Still Fairtrade Fortnight

Some of the images captured this week in Fairtrade Fortnight (until March 10th). Wait till we start adding video, podcasts, live conferencing, and webcams at meetings. Only joking.

Thursday, 1 March 2007


Anger as Tesco draws up plans for store in Chorlton - story in the South Manchester Reporter - Link. Local co-operative is quoted. The monopolist supermarket chain wants to open yet another Tesco Express. They'd love a shop like this at other end of Chorlton, the Princess Road end where there are few retail outlets.

Green Co-operation

Co-operatives are re-enforcing their green credentials.

Co-operative Insurance (CIS) are sponsoring "The Green Car Show" at the Eden Project 30th March - 15th April. If you are down in Cornwall at Easter you could check out the vehicles that use ethanol or electricity. Buy some carbon offsets from the Co-op Group Travel Agents and so not feel guilty by flying to Newquay from Manchester on Air SouthWest.

Also at Easter,
Mukti Mitchell will start sailing around Britain in a zero-emission microyacht to promote low carbon lifestyles. Link. He's being sponsored by the Phone Co-op. He doesn't appear to be sailing up the Ship Canal but he does land at Liverpool on May 10th.