Category Archives: social enterprise

MyCSP becomes first public sector mutual spin-out

By David Bicknell

An article on the Daily Telegraph website suggests that this week will see the creation of the government’s first public sector mutual spin-out. 

MyCSP will be spun out from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and “transformed into an independent mutual that will give staff an unprecedented say in how the business is run and the chance to share in the new company’s profits.”

A 25% stake in MyCSP will be divided between the agency’s 500 staff, with a 40% sold off to a major player in the financial services industry. The company will try to win new business from the public and private sectors.

The Telegraph reports that ministers believe mutualisation will halve MyCSP’s administration costs. Although staff will become members of the private sector, they will retain their public sector pensions.

MyCSP has signed a 10-year contract to administer the civil service pension scheme, which has around 1.5 million members. At the end of this contract, the new mutual will have to compete against other private sector pension adminstators to run the scheme.

Lord Hutton of Furness, a former Labour minister, will be the chairman of the MyCSP. He said he hoped this was the “first of many” mutuals to be spun out of the public sector.

“Creating mutuals are a very exciting way for people on the front line of the public sector to take ownership and responsibility for the services they provide,” said Lord Hutton.

“They get a voice on the board and a share of any profits. I hope this model will lead to better performance and better value for the taxpayer.”

He argued that the old model of public sector monopolies were “not fit for the 21st century”, and added that the greater squeeze on taxpayers’ money ensured that poor performance in the public sector could “no longer be tolerated”.

“There is no such thing as a status quo in the public sector worth defending – we must have a relentless pursuit of excellence,” he said.

“I am a very strong supporter of what this Government is trying to do with public service reform particularly with a view to mutualisation.”

MyCSP’s private sector partner will be the Equiniti Group’s Paymaster business, which will hold a 40 per cent stake, with the government holding 35 per cent and the employees 25 per cent under a model based on the much-quoted John Lewis model of mutual ownership , which rewards employees with profit-related bonus schemes.

Related articles

Mutualised civil service pension service is launched

Hutton to head up Whitehall mutual

Equiniti Group’s Paymaster business partners with first central government mutual

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Mutuals: “lean, people-focused businesses” trying to “climb a wall of technical complexity”

By David Bicknell

There are some insightful comments from Co-operatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham’s Andy Rennison on mutuals in this piece by People Management.

Mayo is quoted as saying, “At the moment we are asking people in public services to climb a wall of technical complexity, and the most urgent task for the mutuals programme is now to simplify it.”

He highlights taxation and procurement as the areas in most need of attention, and would ultimately like to see public sector mutuals given the same special dispensation as they have in Italy.

Rennison, Hammersmith & Fulham’s mutual lead, provides an interesting description of a well-attended bidders’ day held where 28 private organisations expressed an interest in being backers of the tri-borough’s (Westminster City Council and the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are also involved) schools IT services mutual project.

 “The feedback from one organisation was that we had too many people, we’ve got to cut this and cut that. But we felt that, actually, no, we’re already quite lean with a clear business plan which we’re confident we can deliver. That demonstrated their lack of understanding about what this business does – it’s a people-focused business.”

Why nations – and organisations – fail

By David Bicknell

I just came across an excellent piece by Craig Dearden-Phillips on why nations – and organisations – fail.

In it, he discusses a book,  ‘Why Nations Fail’, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.

He writes: “The opener of the book contrasts two halves of a city, Noglales which straddles the Mexico-US border. One sits in the region on Sonala, Mexico, the other in Arizona, US. Here the people, culture, climate and operating conditions are the same. On one side of the border, incomes are many times higher, there are good public services and crime is uncommon. On the other, people are mostly poor, there are few public services and crime is rampant because the state isn’t in real control on the ground.

He continues: “Perhaps what has capitivated me most, though, is the read-across to why certain types of public services fail, despite wonderful resources and high levels of native talent. Analogous to the extractive and exclusive institutions described at state level in this book could be placed the large public sector monopolies which still dominate much of public service in Europe and certainly in the UK.

“Here, power is often monopolised and change, even ‘good change’ does run against the interests of many of those involved. Initiative is often powerfully suppressed. It is hard, frequently impossible, to set up in business against these monopolies and there are often few political processes which can be used to break these systems down.

“What am I thinking of here? Well, if you haven’t guessed, I am alluding to many of the organisations from which spin-outs do or don’t emerge.

“The truth of the matter, and I see this every day, is that setting up a new business to deliver public services feels like it probably does to set up any ordinary business in parts of the developing world. You need the buy-in of a variety of power-brokers, all of whom need to see their interests satisfied. You need to go through all sorts of bureaucratic processes to show you’re not a risk and are ‘worthy’ of delivering services.

“From there, you need to make all sorts of promises to the system that its interests will not be threatened and create opportunities for the system to have it’s say even when the business is up and running.

“All of this, of course, creates a massive disincentive for any sane person in public services who wants to change things. The risks are massive – to career, to sanity, to reputation – that most people, quite understandably either stay put or move out. Those that try to start a public service business have to run a gamut that looks far more like something you’d see in Mexico than in Midshire, UK.”

Dearden-Phillips makes some excellent points and the whole piece is worth reading.

Some mutuals reading and listening

By David Bicknell

I just came across a couple of items on mutuals: a piece by Kevin Jaquiss from the Cobbetts law firm about how to register as a mutualised service provider  and a piece on the Baxi Partnership website about a documentary showcasing employee-owned enterprises, including Mondragon.

If you’re interested in Mondragon, there is a BBC radio programme which you can also listen to.

The campaigners’ view of the Gloucestershire case on social enterprise and the NHS

By David Bicknell

Left Foot Forward recently carried a piece discussing the impact of the recent case in Gloucestershire where campaigners had “argued that the local PCT had acted unlawfully in planning to hand over management of nine county hospitals and 3,000 community health staff in what would have been the biggest planned transfer (so far) to a social enterprise in the country.”

It is written from the perspective of the campaigners who question, now that the Health Bill is passed, how far are current NHS providers obliged to put existing services out to competitive tender?

FT: ‘Lessons from the house that John Lewis built’

By David Bicknell

John Kay’s column in the FT yesterday on the need for pluralism in business structures (that include mutuals) was a good read.

In “Lessons from the house that Lewis built”, he argues that we need to find more robust capital and governance structures that permit wider forms of commercial activity. Worth a read (you may need to register or find “Lessons from the house that Lewis built” via Google)

The column refers to a recent report by the Ownership Commission chaired by Will Hutton. You can read the report here

David Cameron launches £600m Big Society Fund

Rights to Provide plans focus on “potential offered by mutual models” to improve services

By David Bicknell

The Government has detailed how it is developing and implementing Rights to Provide to “empower front line staff across the public sector to take over the services they deliver,” possibly through the creation of new mutuals.

The Government said it has identified local authorities’ services, fire services, probation and adult social care as some of the areas for developing new mutuals. This it says, will be backed by enhanced support available to staff through the Mutuals Information Service and the Mutuals Support Programme.

In announcing an updated discussion paper David Cameron said increasing parental choice in schools, extending personal budgets so people can choose how they spend money on services and increasing the transparency of public service performance and user satisfaction are all part of the next steps to improve public services by opening them up.  The paper updates the Open Public Service (OPS) White Paper published last summer.

Launching the new paper, Cameron said: “Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big-state structures we inherited from the last government. We are putting people in control, giving them the choices and chances that they get in almost every other area of life. There is still a way to go and this kind of change will not happen overnight. But no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up.”

Specifically on mutuals, the paper says:

“Alongside the focus on digital delivery, and as a core part of work to reform the Civil Service, Government Commercial Teams are working with individual departments to identify where new commercial models would accelerate reform and improve services. In some cases, this may involve high-quality in-house delivery; in other cases outsourcing may offer best value.

“We are particularly interested in the potential offered by mutual models, including mutual joint ventures, that give employees much greater say in the way their organisation is run, for example the model being considered for MyCSP.

“To ensure that the benefits of mutualisation are available across the wider public sector, we are giving public sector staff new Rights to Provide – empowering employees to form public service mutuals to bid or request to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector staff to become their own boss,freeing up untapped entrepreneurial and innovative drive.

“Public service mutuals are now well established in community healthcare, with thousands of public servants working in new mutuals with contracts worth almost £1 billion. We have extended these rights to new areas, including adult social care and NHS trusts, and we are looking to go further, in areas such as youth services, probation services, children’s centres, and fire and rescue services.

“We have been actively working with fledgling mutuals on the ground, for example through the Mystery Shopper service and the Mutuals Information Service; and we are supporting some of the most promising and innovative mutuals to reach the point of investment readiness, through the Mutuals Support Programme – a fund of more than £10 million to contract for support in the form of business and professional services to groups of staff who want to form mutuals or existing mutual organisations in the public sector. A steady stream of applications is developing into a pipeline of projects.”

The Government said all its departments will put in place a Right to Provide to empower employees in public services for which they are responsible to s pin out to create new public service mutuals. Public sector workers who want to formmutuals or co-operatives to deliver public services will be given a Right to Provide.

The Government will look to reflect these commitments in departmental business plans where appropriate.

Information from the Mutuals Information Service will inform departmental policy development, the new paper says.  

It points out that “the Department of Health’s Right to Request is near completion, with 40 services now operating as independent social enterprises and further projects to go live by April 2012. The Right to Provide has generated interest across NHS trusts, foundation trusts and adult social care.

“The Department of Health is already exploring opportunities to support social enterprises and mutuals spinning out from the NHS, social care and adult social work. The status of other government departments is as follows:

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Further Education – now starting

Home Office – not yet started

Ministry of Justice – now starting; commitments will be reflected in the Department’s business plan 

Department for Work and Pensions – not yet started

Department for Education Youth Services, and Social Work – now starting

Department for Education Children’s Centres – not yet started.

Other Links

Cabinet Office news release

From The Sun: “Run fire service like John Lewis”

By David Bicknell

It’s not often that the prospects for mutuals – or John Lewis, for that matter – make it into The Sun. But this story takes the mutuals bandwagon into areas it hasn’t been previously.

The Sun’s story – ‘Run fire service like John Lewis – refers to the Cleveland Fire Brigade, which reportedly ‘plans to turn itself into a mutual — just like John Lewis stores where staff share profits.’

The story quotes Cleveland’s chief fire officer Ian Hayton saying: “Combining a public service ethos with an entrepreneurial drive for growth will empower our staff.”

It also quotes Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude saying, “We are opening up public services to get more bang for the taxpayers’ buck.

“Frontline workers know best how to do their job. That’s why mutuals can be the best way to run things.”

However, an article on Public Finance makes the point that the ‘mutual option’ was always a non-starter for public audit.

It argues that the Audit Commission’s abandonment of the ‘mutual option’ for audit follows a weekend disclosure that police forces are being pressured by the Home Office ‘to outsource great swathes of front as well as back-office work.’

Audit Commission: the feeling’s not mutual

Never knowingly undersold: the John Lewis ‘mutual model’

By David Bicknell

They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Just publicity. Well, unwittingly, John Lewis is getting plenty of it. It’s gone from being a retail store, to being the mutuals model, to being associated with care homes, and now, as this article suggests,  its name is being linked with schools.

Is there something in this? Have we truly stumbled on a new way of doing things in the public sector? Or, is it that we are all, as is our wont, looking for a label that we can apply for mutuals, and John Lewis seems to fit the bill?

When we have all finally moved on and gained greater ‘mutual maturity’, so to speak, other models will be more frequently cited. Until then,  you can probably expect that in a conversation where mutuals are cited, John Lewis is likely to be mentioned too.

Transition Institute launches mutuals ‘spin-out’ camps

By David Bicknell

The Transition Institute has come up with a good idea: spin out camps. It plans to hold three over the coming months which will feature networking sessions and practical workshops discussing business design, implementing the business plan and service innovation, all delivered by experts in the field.

The scheduled months for the camps are:

  • North West – March 2012
  • North East – May 2012
  • Midlands – July 2012

Visit the Transition Institute website for more details