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Minister Bruton publishes legislation aimed at reducing red tape on cooperatives

25th July 2013 - Richard Bruton TD

Move comes after reductions last year of 33-80% in Government fees impacting on cooperatives

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, T.D., today (Thursday) published new legislation to ease the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and make it easier to start up and run a co-op as an alternative form of enterprise organisation.

This follows the introduction in December last year of reductions of 33-80% in the fees for business transacted with the Register of Friendly Societies, who registers co-operative societies.

This legislation is primarily aimed at easing the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and making it easier to run a co-operative as an alternative form of enterprise organisation. It takes on board many of the issues raised by the co-operative sector itself as being areas of difficulty or constraint for the sector. In particular, it will:

Ø Allow individual societies to set their own limit on individual shareholdings in the society
Ø Ease financial reporting restrictions by extending the period for the preparation and submission of the annual return and accounts
Ø Make it easier for cancelled societies to be restored to the register
Ø Ease fund-raising restrictions for non-agricultural societies.

In addition, the legislation will make the Examinership process, currently available only to companies, an option for co-operative societies which might find themselves in difficulties.

Publishing the legislation, Minister Bruton said:

“If we are to sustain the progress we have made in the economy and create jobs we will have to continue working hard to reduce business costs and red tape. A crucial part of this will be to reduce those costs and red tape which are directly under the control of government.

“As we recognised in the Programme for Government, forms of enterprise organisation other than the company can play a role in meeting needs in different sectors, and I am determined to ensure the legislation governing these models supports business development and that the burden of red tape is kept to a minimum. This legislation addresses particular problems which have been identified in the co-operative sector, and will help ensure that this model can thrive and grow to its potential”.

Finally, the Bill also makes changes to the legislation governing friendly societies. There are currently just 47 friendly societies (mostly charitable or benevolent societies) registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies, and many of these have relatively low levels of activity. There have been just three new entrants to this group in the last 9 years, and it is clear that this nineteenth-century model has out-lived its usefulness and is ill-suited to meeting the needs of the twenty-first century.

The Minister noted the recent announcement by his colleague, Alan Shatter, T.D., Minister for Justice and Equality, regarding his intention to establish a new Charities Regulatory Authority next year, and said that this would provide an appropriate regulatory environment for charitable and benevolent groups and societies, ensuring that there is a suitable framework in place for the proper regulation of such groups into the future.  

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