THE Co-op is to recruit a smaller board of nine directors with "high standards of competence" as part of radical governance reforms announced today.

The mutual, which received the backing of members to begin the changes at a landmark meeting in May, will also establish a 100-member council to act as guardian of the group's values and to hold the board to account.

Other changes include a move to one-member-one-vote on significant matters such as the election of directors and major transactions.

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The Co-op, which last year racked up a £2.5bn loss following the worst period in its 150-year history, said the reforms will be put to a vote at a special general meeting on August 30.

Interim chief executive Richard Pennycook said approval of the governance changes will mark the end of the rescue phase of the group following recent progress in shoring up its balance sheet.

Co-op chair Ursula Lidbetter added: "These governance reforms represent the final crucial step in delivering the necessary change to restore the group and return it to health."