Co-ops to scrap limits on individual shareholdings under new legislation

Co-ops will soon see caps removed on an individual’s shareholding and the amount a society may raise in funds without the written permission of the Registrar of Friendly Societies, under new legislation.

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has welcomed the passing of the Report and Final Stages of the Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 which is expected to be signed into law this week by the President.

The Bill provides for appeals against a decision of the registrar to be made to the circuit court rather than the High Court as happens at present. Co-ops will also gain greater flexibility regarding their financial year for the purpose of submission of annual returns.

It also provides for the application of the existing law on examinership (as applied by the Companies Acts) to industrial and provident societies, which at present, cannot avail of the examinership process.

Most of these changes will be enacted shortly (except for the examinership provision, which will be enacted when the appropriate court rules are in place).

The Bill follows the introduction of a Statutory Instrument in late 2012, reducing the fees charged by the Registrar of Friendly Societies to co-operative societies, to levels comparable with companies.

The ICOS said that: “The forthcoming new Act represents a welcome but modest response on the part of Government to the commitment made in the Programme for Government regarding co-operatives.

This commitment had stated that the Government would “work to promote a greater appreciation of the co-operative model as a distinct form of organisation, ensure a level playing field between co-operatives and the other legal options for structuring enterprise activities, and provide a conducive framework for the full potential of the co-operative model to be realised”. The statement continued: “Now that the work on the consolidation of the Companies Bill is virtually complete, the next stage in this process must involve a complete overhaul of Industrial and Provident Societies legislation.

“This interim Bill is aimed primarily at easing the regulatory burden on co-operative societies and making it easier to start up and run a co-operative as an alternative form of enterprise organisation,” it continued.

The ICOS represents co-operatives and organisations in Ireland – including the Irish dairy processing co-operatives and livestock marts.


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