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.’