An end to another dramatic year!

As we come into the festive season many of our Co-ops and Community Businesses face another challenging period.

As I write, the new Omicron variant is spreading at pace across the country and its ultimate effect can not yet be fully known. But, looking back across the year, and especially to this time last year, we remain in awe of the remarkable resilience shown by our borrowers. This can be seen through a series of ten ‘Covid Stories’ blogs we launched across the end of 2020 and 2021. Each blog told a different story of how our borrowers overcame the pandemic challenges of 2020, through innovation, determination, co-operation and community. This narrative has held throughout 2021, in both the dark times and the light, and the resilience of the co-ops and community businesses we support still amazes – not one of our borrowers has failed and through our supportive lending we hope that 2022 remains just as positive.

For us as an organisation it’s been busy year, just not necessarily with lending! Despite the resilience of the sector, understandably, commitment to growth or a requirement for new business finance is not as buoyant as pre pandemic – although in the past six months we have certainly seen an upturn in enquiries and more confidence in our market. Much of our work this year has been in the background, developing new projects and working on our back-office services, including further management of the Co-op Foundation’s Community Spaces portfolio. And to throw in a teaser, we hope to be announcing an exciting new partnership project, involving community shares, early in the new year, more about that soon!

What we can share is the recent launch of our new deal for Community Owned Pubs. This is a legacy support product created in association with the Plunkett Foundation, as a follow-on to the end of the Power to Change and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government grant and loan packages through the More than a Pub programme, earlier in the year. For more information do get in touch.

Operations and governance was also high on the to do list in 2021, taking the time to improve internal systems and progress a move to a digital based office in 2022. Anne and Alain have been working the scanners and shredders hard! Earlier in the year we also embarked on a Trustee/ Director recruitment campaign, with a specific aim to attract individuals that would help improve the equality and diversity on our board. This has been a great success and we welcomed five new faces at our AGM back in June. Regrettably we have lost a couple of Trustees/ Directors recently, so we still have work to do in 2022 to attract a full contingent, but we are looking forward to focusing the new and energy and ideas as we move into planning for 2023, our 50th Birthday, and beyond.

Some of you may also have seen that we were recruiting for a new Lending and Relationship Manager back in the Autumn. We are pleased to say we have successfully recruited to the role and will be introducing the new manager in the New Year. This does mean we are regrettably losing Ian Rothwell, who many of you will have worked with over the past 13 years here at CCF, as he looks forward to a slower pace of life. We will be giving him a proper send off in the New Year and Ian will be in touch with many of you as he hands over to our new colleague in January.

So despite a low year of new lending all in all its been another busy pandemic year and notwithstanding the looming wave of Omicron we have lots to be positive about, as we stride into 2022. That’s all for another year so on behalf of all the team and Directors at CCF we wish you a wonderful festive break and productive New Year.