As a business, The Assembly Rooms of Glastonbury Ltd was originally registered (in 1991) with the Financial Conduct Authority as an “Industrial and Provident Society”. Under new legislation – The Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 – we now qualify as a “Community Benefit Society”, however because we registered before 2014, we should just be called a “Registered Society”. We have not re-registered, so we still have the same registration number, which is tied to the Constitution with which we registered and that means the original Mission Statement stands, nothing has changed apart from a label in the FCA’s filing system.
One of the obligations of registration is that we submit an annual return and accounts. At the last AGM (22nd March 2018) a vote for a resolution which would allow us to be exempt from professional auditing brought up the question of our registration with the FCA and whether we would better qualify as a “Co-operative” rather than a “Community Benefit Society”. The FCA define a Co-operative as a society which exists for the benefit of its members (i.e. pays dividends); a “Community Benefit Society” exists for the benefit of a community and is philanthropic or charitable in nature (all profits go back into the society, no dividends are paid), upon dissolution of the society its assets have to be passed on to an organisation with similar aims, it can’t just be sold off or asset stripped; the same strictures do not apply to Co-operatives.
As shareholders we are bound by the contract we consciously made with each other, the Constitution, so we are still bound to operate “as a bona fide co-operative”; the FCA are primarily interested in whether we’re making money out of the venture or not, they do not dictate our leadership structure. In order to qualify as a Co-operative we would have to change the constitution and potentially reconsider the nature of the business and the society’s aims.
Further details: https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/registered-societies-introduction/co-operative-community-benefit-societies-act-2014?fbclid=IwAR3-PsYy-2fgwm-vK8L_SmiCFG5T4SelwPeM0AInWzil_20G0Ejn6yqcSXc