The Big Society and Mutualisation

By David Bicknell 

I was interested in David Cameron’s discussion yesterday about the Big Society and how the government plans to devolve power from Whitehall.

Cameron pointed to the imminent publication of an Open Public Service White Paper setting out the Coalition’s approach to public service reform, and that paper when it comes out will make interesting reading, and should point the way to how new approaches to public service delivery, for example through mutualisation, may develop.

There has been increasing comment over the last few weeks on the potential impact of mutualisation, and the Campaign4Change expects things to become clearer once the new Mutuals Taskforce led by Professor Julian Le Grand hits its straps in working with front line staff who can see how they can do things better but at the same time want to ensure  that their ‘rights to provide’ are upheld.                                                                  

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has said, “When you take power away from bureaucrats and give it to people on the ground they often come up with better, more efficient ways of doing things, this is the essence of the Big Society agenda. Public sector professionals have been held back by the limitations of top-down control, and their commitment to serving people has been ignored in favour of targets and regimented structures.”

Maude has already announced the launch of the first wave of Pathfinder mutuals – public sector spin-offs – to be run by entrepreneurial public sector staff who want to take control of the services they run.

These pathfinders are designed to be trailblazers for the rest of the public sector, helping Government establish, by learning from the front line, what type of support and structures will best enable the development of employee-led mutuals on an ongoing basis.

The Campaign4Change has already been involved in discussions on mutualisation with Landseer Partners, the results of which will emerge in due course.

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