Government scheme hopes to inspire employee ownership of firms

DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s attempts to stimulate a “John Lewis” economy in the UK will be given a boost this week when Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) appoints a team of “ambassadors” to promote employee ownership.

High street stalwart John Lewis is often held up by politicians as a beacon for employee ownership because its staff all hold a stake in the business, sharing in its profits.

Clegg and other political figures want to see “responsible capitalism”, claiming firms that are owned by their staff are “more dynamic” and have higher morale.

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In a speech in January, the deputy PM outlined plans for tax breaks for companies that offer shares to their staff.

Amid the backdrop of the “shareholder spring” – which has seen investors rebelling over what they see as excessive pay for boardroom leaders – CDS will unveil a list of ten “champions” who will promote employee ownership as an alternative business model.

Ambassadors named by the group will include: Fred Bowden, managing director at Dyce-based watermark equipment maker Woollard & Henry; Chris Parr, chief executive at Glenrothes-based paper maker Tullis Russell; and West Highland Free Press managing director Paul Wood, who led an employee buyout in 2009.

Bowden said: “Employee ownership can be the defining factor in driving growth and securing the future of a company that might be facing a succession issue. Becoming employee-owned has proved a very-positive step forward for our company. So becoming an ambassador for this model is a project I warmly embrace.”

Sarah Deas, chief executive of CDS, added: “The best ambassadors for our innovative business models are those companies that have embraced them for themselves.”

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