The Co-op took a big step towards overhauling the way it is run today when members backed a four-point resolution on governance reforms.
The unanimous vote in favour paves the way for the mutual to begin the implementation of proposals by Lord Myners, which include replacing the existing 20-strong board of representatives with a slimmed down “plc and beyond” structure staffed by professionally-trained directors.
The former City minister’s proposals for the food-to-funerals business follow a disastrous year in which the Co-op slumped to a £2.5 billion annual loss.
The existing board includes an engineer, a plasterer and a retired deputy head teacher.
Ursula Lidbetter, Co-operative Group chair, announced that its member had voted “unanimously” in favour of the reforms.
She hailed it as “a highly significant moment” for the group.
Ms Lidbetter said: “This is a highly significant moment for the Co-operative Group and I am delighted that our members have made clear their commitment to far-reaching reform of our governance with this unanimous vote.
“There is a huge task ahead of us if we are to deliver the reforms necessary to restore the Group’s reputation and return it to health but the board will work hand-in-hand with our members to ensure that we seize this opportunity.
“It is vital that the right changes are put in place as soon as possible to build a more effective organisation for our members, customers and colleagues.”
The Co-Operative said 100% of votes were cast in favour of the resolution.
Speaking to reporters, Ms Lidbetter said: “Today’s resolution contained four key principles and we will now use this as a platform for which to build to ensure we put the right changes in place.
“The (Sir Christopher) Kelly report and (Lord) Myners review set out a damning assessment of years of management and governance failures across both the group and the bank.
“Building on the approved four principles of reform, we are set to tackle the root governance issues identified by Sir Christopher and Lord Myners.
“It is clear that colleagues, members and customers are looking to democrats to deliver the reforms necessary to restore the group’s reputation and return it to financial health.
“We will now build a more effective organisation which can ensure that we deliver every day for our customers while returning profits to all the communities in which we operate.”
She said that an additional board meeting had been arranged before the end of this month to formulate a timetable for reform.
“This is essential and urgent work that is critical for our future,” she said.
“Our members have given us a resounding endorsement for reform. We will begin immediately.”