The Co-operative Group is so seriously damaged it won’t return to its glory days, former chief executive Sir Graham Melmoth has said.

Melmoth, who was boss of The Co-op Group  from 1996 to 2002, told The Guardian: “It’s an appalling situation to have got into. It’s got to the point where it is seriously damaged and so damaged it won’t recover to what it was,”

Melmoth expected its members to support Lord Myners’ reform proposals at its AGM on Saturday. He is due to speak at a conference for members on Friday, alongside the Midcounties Co-op president Patrick Gray ahead of the crucial vote.

Myners has called for a board of qualified directors to replace its current one, on which there is 15 representatives from regional groups and five from independent societies.

At the vote on Saturday, members have been asked to back four principles. These include the new board, a structure that gives members the power to oversee the board, a ‘one member, one vote’ system and protection against demutualisation.

Melmoth said that the motion allowed enough “wriggle room” for a few proposals to be considered. He told the newspaper: “Clearly the group’s in a parlous state [but] that doesn’t mean to say that everything that comes out of the stable has to be accepted.”

If there is backing for the reform principles, two special meetings are expected to take place over  the coming months to vote on more detailed governance changes.