Press release

Join the fight for co-ops in the pandemic

Co-operatives UK is calling on government to take action or risk choking off the UK’s economic recovery before it has even begun.

In a joint letter to the Chancellor social enterprise leaders are calling for the UK government to give the social enterprise sector access to its 'fair share' of support to fuel the post COVID-19 recovery. 

"With one in two co-ops reporting to us that they are experiencing cashflow problems and a worrying 17 per cent listing ineligibility for any government grant as a major challenge to their survival, we want to ensure that co-operative and social enterprises don't miss out.  

"Government has done great things in recent weeks. But in its efforts to protect businesses and workers it has left a number of dangerous gaps, affecting non-ratepayers, small businesses that cannot afford expensive new borrowing and too many businesses that trade for a social or mutual purpose."  Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK.  

Co-operatives and social enterprises are urged to back our four-point plan.

From the start of the pandemic Co-operatives UK has been gathering information on how co-ops are affected and identifying gaps in government’s support. Data from our survey is giving us an ever-clearer picture of impact and need, while also informing our lobbying efforts. 

Here’s what we know:

  • One in two co-ops (48 per cent) report experiencing cash flow issues
  • Almost 40 percent are having to furlough workers in order to survive
  • Looking to the medium-long term 70 percent of co-ops express concerns about the health of their business

We are extremely concerned for the 17 per cent of co-ops that list ineligibility for any government grant as a major challenge to their survival. We are also concerned for more than half of the UK’s 7,215 co-ops, which may be surviving now but will need better-tailored support in the months to come. We particularly share the concerns of the wider social enterprise and business communities that the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) is not meeting their needs. 

Priority policy asks

We are urging government to:

  • Extend eligibility for the Small Business Grant Fund to all micro enterprises (annual turnover up to £632,000) that have a clear social purpose and reinvest the majority of their profits in that purpose 
  • Enhance the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) for small businesses; and provide additional capital to social impact financiers, so that these can provide fast, patient, low and zero interest loans to co-operatives, mutuals and other social enterprises 
  • Ensure community benefit societies will be eligible for the £370 million of grants being made available for charities and social enterprises via the National Lottery Community Fund

There are 100,000 social enterprises, which include co-operatives, in the UK contributing £60bn to the economy and employing 2 million people. A lack of adequate support is not only putting  jobs at risk but the loss of these businesses will disproportionally impact some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. 

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> Read our latest briefing for policymakers

Co-operatives UK is campaigning alongside Community Leisure UK, Locality, Plunkett Foundation, School for Social Enterpreneurs, Social Enterprise UK, Social Enterprise Mark CIC, Social Value UK and UnLtd