Belfast Telegraph

Brexit is dividing communities, says Co-operative boss

The group is focusing on social initiatives.

Co-op said it is tackling social issues through a range of initiatives (PA)
Co-op said it is tackling social issues through a range of initiatives (PA)

The boss of the Co-operative Group has said Brexit is “dividing communities” as the business pushes forward with initiatives tackling social problems.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the groceries to funerals provider, said more attention should be focused on challenges facing local communities.

“I think Brexit is dividing communities, that’s what worries me regardless of whether it’s a hard or a soft deal,” he said on a call with the media.

“The issues around knife crime, creating jobs, homelessness, I think these things need to be addressed a lot more.”

It follows news that Co-op has withdrawn single kitchen knives from sale in its stores amid increasing worries over Britain’s knife crime rate.

Mr Murrells said the number of knives stocked in stores was already small, but that the move was “more about the symbolism” of taking them off sale.

He also hailed a raft of initiatives at the group ranging from the pension fund’s possible investment in social housing to the creation of more Co-op academy schools.

He added that the business is unlikely to restart paying a dividend to its members in the near future.

Instead, it will focus on helping society and its membership scheme, in which shoppers get back 5% of what they spend on Co-op products and a further 1% is donated to local causes.

Last year, the group paid out £19 million to local causes and returned £60 million to Co-op members through its loyalty scheme.