LEEDS COPPICE WORKERS
Leeds Coppice Workers is a workers co-op formed in 2012 dedicated to the responsible management of woodlands; primarily coppice restoration work. Working throughout the year, we provide the local community with a variety of traditional coppice products for gardens, rural crafts such as hedge-laying, charcoal for restaurants and barbecues and firewood.
Leeds is a thriving city with great access to green space but some of the land has been neglected in terms of active management, so we have been working alongside Leeds City Council and Yorkshire Wildlife trust since our inception in order to bring areas wood back into productive use.
This allows us to take community groups, volunteers and schools out into the woods and help the local community re-engage with some of the fantastic resources of diverse wildlife that are on their doorsteps.
When we initially became fortunate enough to be selected as one of the groups to receive support from 'Making Local Woods Work' we were coping reasonably well on a practical level but our basic book keeping and accounting was functioning less well. As a result we were assigned time with an adviser called Andy Woodcock who has been assisting us with a range of advice from the use financial software to issues of governance and working as an employer.
Historically, the co-operative has had members and directors that were all allowed to invoice the company on a self-employed basis and may work however much they like i.e. 2-3 days a week depending on the time of year. Through the support process it has transpired that in the long run it is better on a number of levels to become an employer and in turn become employed.
Andy and Rhiannon (also an advisor) have been incredibly helpful and supportive and we have been able to pick up the phone any time if there's a small question. Since the start of the support process from Making Local Woods Work, we have improved our finances and bank balance, have developed better records of working practice and documentation, acquired two new members, worked with numerous volunteers, various school groups and a charity that works alongside men in urban Leeds to promote their wellbeing and health. We are also carrying out more contract felling work, hedge laying and bespoke orders than ever before and really can't keep up with the demand for firewood!
We have found that Andy and Rhiannon's knowledge has been invaluable because of their understanding of how co-operatives can function and how that perhaps differs from other businesses. In 2018 we expect to take on at least one more prospective member and aim to continue to provide regular meaningful and enjoyable employment for everyone involved.