We were delighted to hold the first meeting of the newly-elected Plunkett Community Co-operative Network Advisory Group on 3 February. The Advisory Group consists of representatives of community co-operatives from across the UK, and its role is to help inform our work, particularly in shaping and developing our support, what we offer our members and our advocacy role. Elections are held on an annual basis from the Plunkett Community Co-operative Network membership.

Meet the Advisory Group

Sue Mann, Clapham Community Shop, North Yorkshire
Representing the North West of England, North East of England, Yorkshire and the Humber

Sue is a member of the Clapham Community Shop Ltd committee. Until her retirement from fulltime work in 2014, she worked in the voluntary sector in a community development role for over 20 years. She was involved in developing services from scratch, supporting them through difficulties but also recognising when it was right for them to come to an end. She also brings a wealth of experience from her involvement with Clapham Community Shop Ltd, which re-opened to the public in March 2015 after having been closed for ten months, before which it was privately owned. A small group of volunteers worked extremely hard to bring the shop into community ownership and back to life. It now not only provides a vital service to the village, but it is the real hub of the community.

Peter James, Titchmarsh Village Shop, Northamptonshire
Jointly representing the Midlands, East of England and Wales

Peter is a chartered accountant who became involved with the Titchmarsh Village Shop project and went on to contribute to its successful opening in 2007, remaining as treasurer since then. He has advised on social enterprise with PricewaterhouseCoopers and has worked with the Social Enterprise Coalition to support their project management, and has spoken on behalf of Plunkett Foundation and other social funders on the operation of village shops within communities. In 2012 he was asked to serve on the Plunkett Community Shop Network Trustee Group, a role he undertook for three years, advising on national policy developments (including tax and pensions) and banking relationships, as well as on practical issues drawn from his own experience of working within Titchmarsh Village Shop. In his current day job as ICAEW Regulatory Policy Manager he has worked with the Financial Conduct Authority to agree the format and reporting of accountants’ reports for Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies.

Pamela Kenworthy, Bamford Community Hub, Derbyshire

Jointly representing the Midlands, East of England and Wales

Pamela’s experience of living in a rural community for over 30 years, and her skills and competencies as a business woman and employment law solicitor, have been fully engaged in her role as a director of the Bamford Community Society, which saw the community saving the last pub in the village. She says that seeing the community come together with a vision to protect the integrity of village life and create a sustainable and thriving community hub – not just the pub, but a post office and café, too – has been a real inspiration, although challenging at times. She considers that good governance (operational, financial and strategic) has been extremely important, and has seen how a dynamic and diverse Board has come together with the community to deliver their vision. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge and experience to the Advisory Group.

Les Eastlake, St Tudy's Community Shop, Cornwall
Jointly representing the South West and South East of England, and London

Les is a qualified accountant and has 40 years financial and general management experience in industry. He has worked at Director level in small companies through to international businesses across a number of trade sectors and now works part-time on a consultancy basis.
The community of St Tudy took over the existing village shop in April 2011 and set about raising funds to build and equip new premises on land leased from the village hall. Les was instrumental in developing the business plans and grant applications that raised £150,000 towards the project cost of £200,000, the balance coming from a community share issue. The new shop opened in August 2012, together with a Post Office Local, which replaced the outreach service previously operated. Sales from the new premises are up over 20% from the old shop, and the business now has 3 employees from the local area alongside a small army of volunteers, helping to further develop and grow trade. Les also works as a Plunkett Advisor and has already supported a number of other community shop projects in Cornwall.

Paula Bramley Ball, Winsham Community Shop, Somerset
Jointly representing the South West and South East of England, and London

Paula has 28 years of experience working in both corporate and not-for-profit environments. She spent 20 years working for Tesco PLC in a number of commercial, marketing, strategic planning and change management roles in the UK and internationally. Since 2009 she has worked as a self-employed change consultant in retail, adept at operating in unfamiliar environments and working with and supporting a range of different teams and people. In 2012 she worked for the non-profit organisation Development Initiatives on Gates Foundation sponsored programme to provide insight and advocacy in overcoming world poverty.

Over the past five years Paula has played a key role in the running of Winsham Community Shop as finance director, focusing on managing costs and, in the last year, stepping up her involvement to manage the commercial operation on a day to day basis. Within this role she specifically works with suppliers, determining the product offer and pricing, as well as the shop environment and culture. In the past year she has been the key applicant in applying to manage the Post Office within the shop, which they were successfully offered in 2015. This experience has given Paula tremendous insight into issues within the Post Office operating within community based organisations, and is an area where, she believes, there is considerable potential that is not being fully exploited.

Sue Boer, Kingsbury Community Shop, Somerset

Jointly representing the South West and South East of England, and London

Sue has been involved with the Kingsbury Community Shop for over four years – six months before opening and for the four years of trading. She is a member of the management committee and has been a part-time manage of the shop since it opened. She has been a member of the Plunkett Advisory Group for some time and has represented the group on the Plunkett Foundation Board of Trustees for just over a year. She is a huge believer in community co-operatives and their place in village life, due to the way in which they pull communities together in a unique way, particularly the way in which they help people learn to support and rely on each other in constructive and practical ways. She recognises that a key challenge for community co-operatives is the feeling of isolation, and that they are operating alone, which is why she is passionate about using her experience and skills on the advisory group.

Sally Soady, Bamford Community Hub, Derbyshire

Jointly representing the co-operative pub sector with no regional restrictions

Sally’s professional background is in project management in the public sector. Within Bamford Community Society she has a lead role in membership and community engagement, as well as being heavily involved in finance, governance and compliance, and the development of the capital plans on the site. She also coordinates a group of volunteer gardeners who are ‘slowly creating order out of our neglected gardens!’ Sally was part of the team which purchased their village pub, won the contract to run the Post Office and opened the café, and she says this is ‘one of the proudest things I’ve ever done.’ She knows that running a community co-operative is a challenge, but also a great opportunity to build on the community spirit that is generated during the process and re-energise the community. She’s visited a range of other co-operative pubs and worked with Plunkett to organise our first conference for co-operative pubs in March 2015.

Alan Collard, The Green Man, Essex
Jointly represneting the co-operative pub sector with no regional restrictions

Over the past 13 years Alan has worked extensively on community based issues and projects. He was part of the group which established the community owned and run shop in Toppesfield and led the community purchase of the village pub, The Green Man, in 2012. This year he also led a group to establish a community owned brewery in the village, the first in the East of England. From this involvement Alan has experience of fund raising through community share issues, grants and commercial lenders. Alan is also a non-executive director of Colne Housing Society and has good insight into the affordable housing sector. He has direct experience of planning, funding, establishing and running community co-operatives, includin share issues, business planning and financial projections, EIS/SEIS approvals, grant and commercial funding. Alan also acts as a Plunkett Advisor, providing support to a number of communities seeking to follow in the inspirational footsteps of Toppesfield.

Samuel Smith, Sutton Community Farm, London
Representing a community co-operative that is neither a shop nor a pub, with no regional restrictions

Sam is a huge advocate of community co-operatives as an important model for empowering communities, encouraging participation and bringing democracy into business. He has first-hand experience of launching and managing a successful community co-operative (Sutton Community Farm) and has an approach to business that is pragmatic, fair, prudent and realistic. He has expertise in sustainability issues affecting enterprises (economic, environmental and social) and good knowledge of networks and organisations that can support community co-operatives.