Lending tops £4m with loan to co-op agency

The Co-operative Loan Fund has reached the milestone of £4m lent to co-operative enterprises with a loan to support the expansion of one of the UK’s longest established and most successful social enterprise development agencies.

The Co-operative Loan Fund and Big Issue Invest have provided Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (CGDA) with the capital it needs to start two major new contracts in public health and catering training/enterprise.

GCDA in South East London was established as an enterprise agency in 1982. The aim was to support the establishment of community owned, democratically managed businesses to create employment, local economic opportunities and protect or provide local services.

Over the last 34 years GCDA has managed to adapt to major changes in the funding of support agencies by being agile and entrepreneurial.

CEO Claire Pritchard, who has been with GCDA for 14 years, explained: “We have very little grant funding. About half our income comes from contract work in the public sector, much of it to do with health and food, and half comes from our own business activities.”

GCDA employs 33 staff based at various community hubs in and around London. New staff are due to be recruited in the next few months. Last year GCDA changed its legal structure to become a community benefit society and it now encourages users of its services to become members.
Talking about the future, Claire Pritchard said: “We are constantly looking to develop new projects. Although much of our work can be seen as charitable at our core we are building enterprise. Our energy co-op [SELCE] continues to be very important and we would like to do more work in housing. We are also looking at developing a community land trust.”

The Co-operative Loan Fund is a unique fund set up to provide supportive finance exclusively to co-operatives. It is funded and run by co-ops and any surplus is reinvested in the fund to lend to more co-ops. Since it was established in 2002 it has lent a total of £4m to 146 co-operatives many of which would have found it very difficult to borrow from other lenders.

Ian Rothwell of the Co-operative Loan Fund said: “GCDA is a highly entrepreneurial agency that has adapted and grown in a sector where many have perished. We are especially pleased to support them in a joint deal with Big Issue Invest.”


[The photograph shows a group of trainees on a food business training course delivered by GCDA]