The Co-op – No Welsh Dividend

It’s strange how things work out sometimes. In a blog last week I drew attention to the declining percentage of Welsh people in the population of Wales. While in a blog I enjoy Radnorian made the point that very Co-op 3soon it would be possible to drive from the border to the Cardigan Bay coast without passing through a single community where we Welsh are in a majority. That’s a frightening prospect, but with the Welsh born percentage of the Powys population down to 49.8%, and that of Ceredigion on 55.3%, that reality can’t be far off.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when something dropped through my letter-box providing yet further evidence of the unfolding tragedy, and from the strangest source – the Co-op! It came in the form of a booklet (cover above right, click to enlarge) telling me that I Co-op 1have a Mid Wales Area Committee looking after my interests and, further, I have a chance to elect new members to that Committee. Whoopee!

Opening the booklet, I saw the names of the eleven current Committee members with, on the facing page, the names of the six people contesting the five vacancies, three of them serving members and three new faces. (Left, click to enlarge.) You know me, I just had to do some digging, to find out who these people are. The eleven members of the current Committee are listed below left, (click on name for more information). The three new applicants are shown in the panel on the right. (Ditto.):

You’ll note that many of the existing members state their ‘ethnicity’, presumably because the Co-op is keen to encourage “diversity”  or, as the booklet puts it: “The Co-operative Group is committed to supporting our elected bodies in becoming more representative of the members and communities that we serve”. Which is a load of politically correct bollocks, on a number of counts.

From my searches, or their own evidence, I can only confirm that two of the existing Committee are definitely Welsh. Two more may be Welsh, but the other seven are not Welsh. One doesn’t even live in Wales, but qualifies for the Committee because he runs a store on this side of the border! I also suspect that Co-op 4the three new faces trying for election are all English (but, in fairness, one has learnt Welsh). So how can an overwhelmingly English Committee be representative of Mid Wales; and how does the Co-op feel about this group falling so far short of its own pious diversity targets?

Though talking of diversity – and taking it ad absurdum – I suppose the Co-op would be quite happy to have a Mid Wales Committee made up of three English, two Black, three Asian, an Inuit, a Kalahari bushman and an extra-terrestrial . . . and neither notice nor care that there was no Welsh representation.

Moving away from politics, and ‘ethnic profiling’ (the Co-op’s term, not mine), the composition of the Committee also suggests that it’s made up of compulsive ‘joiners’, or else people with a drum to beat – such as Jeremy Thorp, who is “active in environmental campaigning”; or Neil Hirst, who graduated to the Co-op from having worked for the Communities First Programme in Blaenau Gwent (which seems to bear out all I’ve been saying about the Third Sector). Then there’s Louisa St. Bartholomew-Brown Morgan pushing Fair Trade. Though not too assiduously by the look of it, for no one has a worse attendance record at Committee meetings . . . but then Louisa’s the only non-white on the Committee.

But perhaps the biggest worry is that this Committee fails in its very raison d’etre. Because looking at all those listed above I cannot see one who could be described – and I’m not being patronising here – as an ordinary housewife, or a working mother, or your average pensioner. In other words, those groups that together make up the great majority of the Co-op’s customers. So, again, I ask, just how “representative” is this Committee, a body that even has Co-op employees on it?

Truth is, this Committee represents neither Mid Wales nor the majority of the Co-op’s customers. It is simply a talking-shop for activists, the self-important, and those with time on their hands. Its only useful purpose is to give the Co-op a chance to indulge in a phoney ‘Listening to YOU‘ PR exercise. My advice to the Co-op is this: get rid of these pointless bloody committees and use the money saved to either bring down your prices or increase the dividend for loyal customers like me. Or possibly sort out your banking arm.