The aim of the Islay Energy Community Benefit Society (IECBS)is to benefit the community through the development and operation of renewable energy projects on the island or in the seas around Islay. The society is owned and controlled by its shareholders, who as members have one vote each, irrespective of the size of their shareholding.
IECBS has been registered with the Financial Conduct Agency as a community benefit society (No. 2776RS) as defined by the Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Act 2003.
A community benefit society has as its main purpose to conduct business for the benefit the community. It is similar to a co-operative, the main difference being that a community benefit society benefits the wider community, whereas a co-op gives priority to the benefit of its members. The main features are:
- Community benefit societies are governed by their rules and operate within the framework laid down by the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts, with directors, an annual general meeting and regular accounts. The directors, elected by members, are legally responsible for running the society in the interests of the local community
- The maximum investment for withdrawable shares is £20,000,
- Each shareholder member only has one vote irrespective of the value of his/her investment; shareholders may be paid interest at a rate “necessary to obtain and retain enough capital to run the business”
- Shareholders can be individuals or organisations, e.g. companies with Islay connections
- Offers of shares in Societies for the Benefit of the Community are exempt from the requirements for an approved prospectus set out in section 85(1) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 as the shares are not classed as a controlled of specified investment under the Act. This means the cost of the share issue are minimised.
- A community benefit society can adopt an ‘asset lock’, which means that, in the event of dissolution or winding up, any assets (after repayment of shares) must be used for the benefit of the community or distributed to another society with similar aims, rather than shared amongst its members.
- Accounts will be independently examined or audited by an accountant; they are submitted to the FCA once a year, and are open to public inspection.
A copy of the IECBS rules can be downloaded from the “useful documents” page.