Reforming peer quits Co-op board

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FORMER City minister Lord Myners has quit the board of the embattled Co-operative group amid a power struggle over his controversial plans to reform the business.

The company declined to comment on a report that he had left but it was understood that he had tendered his resignation as an independent director though he would carry on with his review.

The development came as turmoil over planned changes continued.

The Guardian said that Lord Myners’ review is unlikely to be accepted by the regional boards and independent societies which run the organisation.

There had been more bloodletting earlier yesterday as the Co-op’s largest independent society was accused of making a “meaningless” political statement by voting against reform plans.

The board of the Midcounties Co-operative, which operates gas and electricity supplier Co-operative Energy as well as Co-op-branded food stores and other businesses, voted against proposals Lord Myners is devising.

They were accused of grandstanding by a source close to the Co-op while Lord Myners said the vote looked “premature” given that his report would not be complete until the end of this month.

Reform plans include a move to abolish the wider group’s vast 21-member board, splitting it into two with a plc-style panel responsible for commercial decisions and representatives from its traditional membership sitting on a separate body.

The Co-op group board has already agreed to this proposal but the shake-up still needs to be finalised and agreed by its millions of members.

The Midcounties move was the latest blow to the wider group after chief executive Euan Sutherland walked out, claiming it was “ungovernable” - as he tried to push through reforms amid the worst crisis in the organisation’s history.

The Co-op recently delayed the publication of annual results, which are widely expected to reveal losses of £2 billion.

Mr Sutherland quit last month, blaming “an individual, or individuals” at the top of the group for deliberately seeking to undermine him by revealing details of his £3.66 million pay deal to a Sunday newspaper.

In a Facebook post at the time, he said: “We appear to have disaffected people who are determined to make life difficult and embarrassing for the Co-operative at a time when what we need most are professionalism and loyalty to the business.”

Warwick-based Midcounties Co-operative, which has 9,000 employees, 439,000 members who share in its profits, and gross sales of more than £1 billion, is the largest independent co-operative in the UK.

It says it is supportive of reform but is insisting that it is given a voice in discussions over the Co-op’s future.

Its board voted against the Myners proposals on Monday night. They want more time to come up with a solution to protect the role of the members and the independent societies.