Co-operatives' turnover soars to £37bn as record 15m join

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Co-operative businesses have reached an all-time high with a record 15.4 million members, an increase of 36 per cent since 2008 and up 13.6 per cent over the year.

The turnover of co-operatives has surged to £37bn, a rise of 3.3 per cent in the last 12 months, according to a report published today by Co-operatives UK.

Meanwhile in the last year, more than 8,000 members have raised £9m through community share offers to register 35 new co-operative community businesses in the UK.

Ed Mayo, the secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said people are turning to co-operatives because they allow them to take greater control of their own destiny and growing their own way out of recession.

"A record number of people in the UK are now members of co-operatives," Mr Mayo said. "They are economically active within those co-operatives, and have a big stake in making them a success. This is why we can still see growth in the co-operative economy – despite the very tough economic trading conditions."

There is no single type of entrepreneur or organisation choosing the co-operative option, according to the report. The co-operative economy in the UK includes customer-owned shops and community pubs, foster-care and child-care providers, and multi-million-pound co-operatives such as Co-operative Energy.

Enterprises include individual entrepreneurs, employers who are sharing ownership, communities, customers and even sports fans who own and run their own clubs.

The latest to group together in a co-operative to save a pub are residents and real ale fans who have teamed up to save the Fox and Goose pub in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. They have acted after ill-health forced the current landlady to announce that she could not continue to run the pub.

They have launched a community share offer, with support from the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, to raise the £130,000 needed to buy and refurbish The Fox – a pub listed as a community asset and the site of an alehouse since the early 14th century.

Michael Fairclough, the Co-operative's head of community and co-operative investment, said: "Co-operation can be key to safeguarding much-loved local assets. Communities working together are a powerful catalyst for change capable of overcoming many of the challenges facing today's society, environment and economy."

Mr Mayo said: "People are taking action. They want a say in what matters to them. In this time of limited economic growth and social challenges, the appetite is to seek to achieve independent control, to run a fair organisation that benefits all and to place increasing importance on planning for the longer term."