The main function of regional boards seems to be to protect the Group board from the area committees, restricting and filtering the flow of information and influence - arguably the very opposite of what is intended.
Meanwhile, the remaining independent regional societies often outperform and out-innovate the Group. Midcounties Co-operatives has grown through the recession, manages to run big stores at a profit (where the Group has mostly given up), and has launched a highly successful energy business.
The belief that only by having one big society can the retail movement take on the competition is plainly mistaken.
We are not saying the Group should be broken up, or that the hard work developing a consistent, national presence should be abandoned. But perhaps we should give our regions much more autonomy and scope to innovate and regain some of the flexibility and community focus that the independent societies use so effectively. In this situation there might be a greater chance that we could work more closely with independent societies and learn from them.