Lord Myners quits after vote against Co-op changes

FORMER City minister Lord Myners quit the board of the Co-operative last night amid a power struggle over his 
controversial plans to reform the business.
Fromer City minister Lord Myners. Picture: GettyFromer City minister Lord Myners. Picture: Getty
Fromer City minister Lord Myners. Picture: Getty

His decision to go followed a vote by the biggest independent society under the group’s umbrella to throw out plans for a shake-up of the mutual.

The rejection of his proposals by the Midcounties Co-operative is seen as a fresh blow for the wider embattled group.

The company declined to comment on his departure.

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It comes just weeks after Co-op Group chief executive Euan Sutherland walked out, claiming the organisation was “ungovernable”.

Earlier yesterday, Myners said in a statement: “The review will not be complete until the end of this month. In the meantime, we are meeting with regional boards to explain the underlying thinking that will bedetailed in our report.

“It would seem premature to vote until the report is complete. The review is independent. My role is akin to that of a doctor – to examine, diagnose and prescribe. It is up to thepatient to decide whether to take the medicine.”

In an interim review published last month, Myners criticised the lack of experience on the Co-op board and said he was “deeply troubled by the disdain and lack of respect for the executive team” among some members.

His proposals include abolishing the group’s cumbersome 21-member board. He wants to split it into two, with a “plc”-style panel responsible for commercial decisions, and representatives from its traditional membership on a separate body.

The Co-op Group board has ratified this plan, but it needs to be finalised and agreed by its millions of members. Meanwhile, the group recently postponed publication of annual results that are expected to reveal losses of £2 billion.

Warwick-based Midcounties, which has 439,000 members who share in its profits, and gross sales of more than £1bn, is the largest independent co-operative in the UK. Its board, which voted against Myners’ proposals on Monday, has said it backs reform but has insisted it had a say in discussions over the Co-op’s future. It said it wanted more time to come up with a solution to protect the role of members and independent societies.

Midcounties president Patrick Gray was quoted as saying: “If the group is simply presented with a menu that presents the Myners proposed position we will not support it.”

One source said: “Some members in their souls just do not want change. And they are playing politics to try and prevent it.”