Tag Archives: London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham

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.”

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Tri-borough mutual plans to save £1m in costs for London councils

By David Bicknell

Council staff across three London boroughs who are setting up their own employee-led mutual to take over school support services expect to save a million pounds over four years.

The three councils – Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea – already share several services, which they say is enabling them to reduce back office costs to help protect frontline services from the public spending squeeze.

Now, a statement issued by Hammersmith & Fulham for the three councils says the staff involved in supplying support services for schools across the boroughs are “putting the finishing touches to plans to set themselves up as an employee-led mutual.”

Andy Rennison, assistant director in Hammersmith & Fulham children’s services, who has been leading the mutual project, said, “Staff in these areas have experience of trading with schools and are excited about the new challenge. We feel that having more control, flexibility and being able to develop a more commercial approach will benefit schools, the mutual staff and the three councils.

“If the venture is successful, and we have every reason to think so, the councils will receive 50% of the mutual’s net profit to reuse in providing educational opportunities.”

The mutual will pilot the new arrangements for four years, with support from a joint venture independent sector partner, currently being selected through European procurement processes.

Hammersmith & Fulham says an open day for potential bidders held on January 24 attracted around 60 delegates.

The project is being supported by the Cabinet Office which picked Hammersmith & Fulham to be a Pathfinder  to explore new ways of delivering public services more efficiently. The services include financial management support and budget planning, IT and building development projects, as well as strategic advice to councils.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “Front line staff know what local people want from public services. The mutual model being pioneered in Hammersmith & Fulham will give staff the power to do things the way they know works best. The evidence is clear, when staff have a real stake in their business productivity rises and customer satisfaction grows.

“This Pathfinder mutual is particularly groundbreaking as staff are forming a ‘joint venture’ with a partner organisation that will help to develop the business further. I commend the staff leading this exciting project for their achievements and hope many more will follow their lead.”

“We are very pleased that staff across the Tri-borough area are excited about this opportunity and taking the lead in this Pathfinder. After the initial four years, the service will be retendered on the open market to ensure that taxpayers continue to get the best possible value for money in the longer term,” said Hammersmith & Fulham cabinet member, Cllr Helen Binmore.

Independent adviser OPM was asked by the Cabinet Office to provide expert support to Rennison and his team as part of the Pathfinder programme.

OPM chief Executive Hilary Thompson said; “Elected members, managers and staff at Hammersmith and Fulham have shown real commitment and energy throughout the process of developing the staff mutual. This is an innovative example of a council recognising and seeking to realise the potential of employee ownership and new ways of working.”

It has emerged that academies and free schools will provide a future opportunity for the mutual to extend its services. There are currently two free schools and two academies in Hammersmith, with more in the pipeline.

Further background information on the mutual is being made available in a Hammersmith & Fulham Cabinet report.

(Thanks to Ian Makgill of government contracting specialist Govmark for his help with this story)

Related Links

Hammersmith & Fulham Pathfinder tender hints at September start for schools mutual

SMEs – when to choose them and when not

Public services can be delivered by knights and knaves mutually

London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham mutual process ‘continuing’

By David Bicknell

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham told Campaign4Change today that the council is continuing to work its way through tenders received in January in response to an invitation to tender (ITT) for  “an innovative independent sector partner (ISP) to participate and invest in the creation of a Mutual Joint Venture Company.”

The mutual, which is due to be up and running in September 2012, will cover services to schools across three London boroughs working together: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster City  Council.   

In response to a Campaign4Change call checking on progress, a spokesperson for the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham said the tender evaluation process was ‘continuing’, as normal.

The ITT which closed in January, had indicated that “the ISP will take responsibility for the creation of the joint venture company, whose shareholding will be shared between the ISP and the employees (held on the employees’ behalf in a trust). The Contracting Authority will have a contractual arrangement with the Mutual Joint Venture company to provide some of the services, supplies and works listed….. for a period of not less than 4 years.”

Hammersmith & Fulham Pathfinder tender hints at September start

Hammersmith & Fulham Pathfinder tender hints at September start for schools mutual

By David Bicknell

 Campaign4Change has kept a watch on the progress of the Pathfinder Mutual at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, which is looking to create a mutual for school support services.

The mutual will actually cover services to schools across three London boroughs working together: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster City  Council.   

Now a tender opportunity for the project has been  listed on the Londontenders.org website. The anticipated start date for the contract is 1st September 2012, running to 1st September 2016.

It appears from the tender that the three boroughs are looking for “an innovative independent sector partner (ISP) to participate and invest in the creation of a Mutual Joint Venture Company.”

The tender says that “the ISP will take responsibility for the creation of the joint venture company, whose shareholding will be shared between the ISP and the employees (held on the employees’ behalf in a trust). The Contracting Authority will have a contractual arrangement with the Mutual Joint Venture company to provide some of the services, supplies and works listed….. for a period of not less than 4 years.”

The tender goes on: “The Contracting Authority is working closely with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster City Council, and it is intended that staff from all three boroughs will be transferred into the Mutual Joint Venture company under the Acquired Rights Directive (the UK’s Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006). The Contracting Authority is procuring on behalf of education bodies within the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster City Council for an independent partner to set up the Mutual Joint Venture Company.”

Interestingly , the scale of services to be offered by the Mutual Joint Venture Company is extensive, everything from ICT services and ICT supplies to architectural, building and security services.

The closing date for expressions of interest in the tender is 31st January.

Hammersmith & Fulham mutual Pathfinder expected to launch in 2012

Public sector procurement change likely to spur outlook for social enterprises and mutuals

There is a good piece by Colin Cram on the Guardian Public Leaders Network which sums up a mood of change in public sector procurement towards social enterprise and the future of mutuals.

Cram argues that  “the public sector procurement spend of £236bn is the biggest lever the government has to generate economic growth. It could be argued that the focus on price or an overly narrow interpretation of cost has damaged UK businesses and UK economic growth. This, more than anything else, might explain the relative success of German industry and business compared to that of the UK.”

He suggests that MP Chris White’s public services social value bill, which has passed its third reading and report stage in the House of Commons,  seeks to strengthen the social enterprise business sector and make the concept of ‘social value’ more relevant and important in the procurement and provision of public services.

Its key elements, says Cram, include:

• A duty on the secretary of state for communities and local government to publish a national social enterprise strategy to encourage engagement in social enterprise.

• Local authorities, when entering into public procurement contracts, to give greater consideration to economic, social or environmental wellbeing.

There is already work in this area being done by Coventry City Council, which is helping social enterprises secure more business by supporting the creation of a consortium, which will be in a much better position to win business, and by the London Borough of Lambeth.

These procurement developments are likely to be  important for the take-off and future well-being of public service mutuals. It will be interesting to see whether further mutuals can take off inspired by the example set by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham which is set to launch in early 2012.

Mutuals Briefing updated

By David Bicknell

One of the most popular areas of Campaign4Change is Mutuals Briefing, a digest of useful information and links around mutuals and mutualisation.

Mutuals Briefing has now been updated to reflect recent announcements by the Cabinet Office covering a report on Mutual Pathfinders, the Mutuals Taskforce Evidence Paper, and the launch of the Mutuals Information Service.  You can also find links to stories covering mutuals issues at the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, and at the Defence Equipment & Support ( DE&S) arm of the Ministry of Defence.

Mutuals: asking the right questions to pick mutual winners in local government

By David Bicknell

Francis Maude’s recent pronouncements on mutuals, the launch of the Mutual Pathfinders report and the availability of the mutuals information service offer the prospect of greater activity around public sector mutuals, though the MoD’s decision not to consider a mutual option for its Defence Equipment & Supplies arm doesn’t say much for joined-up government.

With local government in the throes of reorganisation, this article perhaps provides some insight that could help councils measure the suitability of a service to operate as a mutual, and how they can determine if that service could run as a successful, stand-alone business.

The work that the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham has done in setting up its mutual might serve as a good benchmark.

Hammersmith & Fulham mutual Pathfinder on track

Hammersmith & Fulham mutual Pathfinder on track for ‘early 2012’ launch

By David Bicknell

I recently  spoke with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham about their mutual ‘Pathfinder’ project, which is due to be up and running in 2012.

The current plan is for all three boroughs  – the other two are Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster – to join the mutual in ‘early 2012’.

The three boroughs are now developing the full business plan for the mutual and are looking at the sustainability of the project, with a shadow board of directors meeting regularly to discuss and work out the finer details about how to bring the three teams together across the boroughs.

Other work is going on to finalise the tri-borough mutual vision statement and create a company name (word has it that the current working title is 3BM: Three Borough Mutual) and logo ,which all staff members have been able to contribute to  to reinforce the employee ownership of the scheme.

Meanwhile a mentor from the John Lewis Partnership is working with the fledgling mutual to provide what’s described as ‘invaluable support’ on the shareholding model.

Why those driving the creation of public sector mutuals are Investors, not Conservers

By David Bicknell

All those considering setting up public sector mutuals like Hammersmith & Fulham  – and those in the middle of running successful mutual pathfinders such as Central Surrey Health – know the importance of investing in their vision and backing it.

That’s why I liked this piece by Craig Dearden-Philips, who while discussing third sector organisations, makes a distinction between Investors and Conservers.

“My guess though is that the people who make the biggest difference in the world , certainly socially, are almost all on Investors. These people are not ‘born’. They make a choice about how to live. They know that the Investment Principle works – and they live by it.

“Of course, Investment isn’t just a one way street. Investments frequently don’t pay off. In people, in relationships, in business. You get burned as much as you get it right. And investments that are not made judiciously, in people or ventures that are wrong to begin with, are not defensible either. Being investment-minded isn’t about being a soft-heart. But it is about understanding the powerful link between investment and reward and making this, somehow, a feature in the way you operate.”

Wise words.

Coalition will learn lessons from Pathfinder pilots before expanding mutuals programme

By David Bicknell

Given the references to mutuals at the recent Lib Dem conference and some comments at fringe meetings at the Labour Party conference, it might be reasonable to expect that at next week’s Tory Party conference, we could expect some forward thinking on taking the mutuals agenda forwards from a practical perspective.

Two areas that might be worthy of further discussion are procurement including competition and lengths of service delivery contracts, and mutuals financing,  which are issues that those who want to spin out from the public sector – and those that already have done – are now facing.

According to this story reported by Civil Service World, the Government has said it will take close account of what is happening with the Pathfinder ‘pilots’, before rolling out the mutuals programme more widely.

Although Ed Davey’s comments were actually from last week, they still make interesting reading. Civil Service World reports him as saying the Coalition “has an ambitious agenda” on mutuals and there will be “lots of things we need to learn from [the Cabinet Office’s mutual] pathfinders before we can have confidence to roll it out more widely.”

Davey quoted a study from Cass Business School which found that employee-owned organisations perform better in downturns, and highlighted the importance of employee empowerment. “It is not simply about ownership, it’s also about involvement and engagement; just giving people shares isn’t [enough],” he said.

Davey also highlighted the challenges of attracting finance for mutuals, and of helping them to secure service delivery contracts. Some new mutuals will initially need three- or five-year contracts, he said, to allow them to get established and provide “reassurance” for members.

Cabinet Office tells mutuals future is bright

Hammersmith & Fulham Mutual Pathfinder expected to launch in 2012