Mutuals to be at heart of Open Public Services White Paper to be launched today

By David Bicknell

The Government is expected to launch its Open Public Services White Paper in London today, giving details of how so-called ‘John Lewis-style mutuals’, will take over the running of much of the public sector.

The shake-up of the state will hand “choice and control” to communities across the country,  opening large parts of the public sector to the “best possible provider.”

The Open Public Service White Paper  is being mooted as the sector’s biggest overhaul for 50 years, with private firms, voluntary groups and charities cleared to take over the running of  schools, healthcare and council services.

The emphasis is expected to be put on “mutuals”, where staff control the planning and spending decisions for local services. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has already  suggested that mutuals could have a  “transformational”  impact on service quality and morale. By 2015, it is estimated,  one in six public sector employees will be working in mutuals.

Already a ‘Mutuals Taskforce’ is in place, supported by a pilot ‘Pathfinder’ programme  to help point the way for would-be mutuals to learn from.

Maude has already pointed to the example of an intermediate care unit in Swindon which was  launched as a pilot last summer, bringing together around 900 nurses, physiotherapists, doctors and other staff previously employed by the primary care trust and local council.

“It’s a mutual where there’s no financial incentive. They will own it, but with no profit share or anything, no financial upside, they will have to take out 30 per cent of their cost over the next four years and they are really excited about it,” Maude told The Independent on Sunday.

If you’re considering setting up a mutual, what are your concerns? What questions would you like the Government to answer about mutuals?

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