All Party Group lauds promise of mutualising public services – but warns against economic motives

By David Bicknell

An article in Community Care magazine has said employee-led mutuals could positively transform public services as long as they are not driven by economic motives.

The magazine cites a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Employee Ownership, which found the coalition government had made “significant process” with its commitment to mutualise public services, including social work.

But the all party group warned that, although many employee-led mutuals had reported efficiencies, cost-cutting alone “should not be the prime motivator for seeking out mutual ownership models”.

The MPs, chaired by Conservative MP Jesse Norman, identified some concerns about the timing of the mutuals intitiative. Trade unions in particular have suggested it is being driven by financial considerations rather than the desire to give frontline workers more freedom and control.

“Several witnesses told us that the timing of the public service mutuals initiative, during a time of deep budget cuts at central and local government level, was inflicting severe damage on how the initiative was perceived and how it was being implemented,” the report said.

“The group is concerned to hear that some spin-outs appear solely driven from very senior level, typically under the pressure of the need for immediate short term cuts, with the wider base of employees engaged only after the process had started.

The APPG, set up in 2007 to raise awareness of the benefits of employee ownership, also noted that the “plethora” of employee ownership models available had caused confusion among frontline workers.

Norman said policy makers should do more to connect would-be mutuals with experts and ensure that advice is accessible.

You can download the report here

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