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New Co-operatives Act for Northern Ireland

Policy campaign

29th May 2019
Last updated
4th November 2020
Northern Ireland
Credit union
Policy issue
Law and corporate framework
Jonathan Bell at Stormont

The Bill, set to receive Royal Assent at the end of April (2019) includes a series of updates around investment and accounting that will help put co-operatives on a more equal footing with other forms of business. It also gives credit unions in Northern Ireland freedom to provide new products and services, including opening membership to corporate bodies.

Co-operatives UK, the network for the UK’s thousands of co-operatives, worked with members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to help get the Bill through. We lobbied for these reforms over many years and kept a keen eye on the progress of the Bill to ensure it included appropriate measures. 

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The reforms cover crucial updates that will make it easier for people running co-operatives and credit unions in Northern Ireland. The sector turns over £1.1 billion a year but has been hampered by archaic limits on investment and has been playing catch-up with company law in a few key areas. The reforms will make the legal form more user-friendly and provide new opportunities for innovation and growth.
– James Wright, Policy Officer, Co-operatives UK

Jonathan Bell, the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said: "The sectors benefiting from these reforms play a key role in the Northern Ireland economy. Credit unions provide vital financial services to communities across Northern Ireland, and some of our largest and most successful businesses are registered as industrial and provident societies. Both will see positive changes."

"Societies will also find it more straight forward to engage with younger people, and to choose their own year of account. The Bill will relax the rules on the number of shares members can hold, making it simpler for our societies to secure the investment they need."

"It is important credit unions and registered societies can carry on growing and work will continue to ensure both sectors operate within a legislative framework that supports this."

The Bill also includes reforms to allow credit unions to have organisations as members as well as individuals.