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The New UK Co-op Bill: In Praise of Diversity

Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a Co-operatives Bill to consolidate the laws around Co-operative Societies (a subset of Industrial and Provident Societies, I think). This is overdue and very welcome. But some commentators seem to be forgetting that UK co-operatives also have the ability to be co-operative corporations, unlike some other countries. Co-op LLPs, CLGs and CLSs are fairly cheap and quick to register, from between £18 and £40 depending on the type and method. These have the big advantage that it's a level playing field with private corporations and it would be rather difficult to penalise those co-operatives without hurting a lot of private companies as well. Like it or not, private sector lobby groups are currently much more influential than the co-operative sector, so it's good to have them protecting some co-ops. There are three big steps which could be taken to help co-operative corporations in general:

  1. HM Government should stop prohibiting their job-creation schemes from creating certain types of worker-owners;
  2. the Registrar of Companies should actually enforce "co-operative" as a sensitive word: only corporations that are members of some co-operative federation should be allowed to use it in their name;
  3. Co-operative federations should stop discriminating against corporations, both in words (IPSes are not the only co-ops, but you wouldn't realise it from some articles) and fees (it should not cost more to incorporate any type of co-op company than a co-op society).

Do you think there's any chance of any of those three? MJ Ray makes cool Internet stuff with the 10-year-old tech worker co-op called software.coop, among many other things, while travelling between East Anglia and Somerset.

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