Tag Archives: mutualisation

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.

Understanding the politics of ‘stepping out’ to create a public sector mutual

By David Bicknell

I just read an excellent piece by Craig Dearden-Philips in the Guardian today about the politics involved in the spinning out of a public sector mutual.

He argues that if you, as a public manager, want to ‘step out’, you’ve not only got to do the numbers, you’ve also got to do the politics.

He suggests that politicians, or very senior executives, need three things. Firstly, they need to know if this fits in with the general tenor of where they see things going more widely in the organisation. Secondly, they want to know that the numbers add up.

And finally, and perhaps the most interesting, “politicians and senior managers need to know that they can influence the new body. For councillors and top executives, who are used to directly managing services, a spin-out can present a big operational and financial threat. They can no longer just recover a deficit elsewhere by plundering your budget. Nor, if they are no longer in charge, can they, in the event of a bad headline, tell voters they are putting a rocket under you! Again, the answer here lies in giving them a place at the table and moving the relationship from one governed by command and control to one where influence is exercised through a contract.”

Guardian Public Services Summit

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

Why this SME’s innovative ideas may help Nick Clegg understand the real causes of the riots

Could a new approach detect the early warning signs of radicalism in a way that ordinary research, surveys and intelligence gathering couldn’t? Or spot when programmes to reduce re-offending aren’t working?

In this guest blog, Andrew Moore, chief operating officer at DAV Management, whose customers include large public and private sector organisations, explains why government research into complex situations, such as the causes of the recent riots or making offender management more effective, requires a different approach that goes beyond supporting preconceived hypotheses to give new insights and fresh perspectives, and crucially, offers a means of detecting the early signals of situations that are developing in communities which can either be encouraged for the wider good or damped down before they can pose a threat.

Improving the Citizen Experience

An innovative approach to surveys and research

There is a currently a great deal of interest within government circles to determine how best to engage with its various stakeholders in different, more effective (and understandably less expensive) ways.

There’s the Big Society, the attempt to establish ‘happiness’ as a measure of the nation’s wellbeing (rather than just good old GDP), the need to engage citizens in a more direct and effective manner, with services designed around them rather than the structure of government.  In addition there are specific events that trigger the Government’s need to interact with sections of the population, such as the recent announcement by Nick Clegg that he wants to engage with communities affected by the summer riots in England, in order to understand who did what and why.  Then there are the government’s internal stakeholders – its employees, with whom it is seeking an altogether more symbiotic relationship – devolving power to the people on the front line who frequently know how to run services in a more effective and efficient manner.

Mutualisation’ and ‘Third Sector’ are terms that I suspect everyone is likely to become more familiar with over the next few years, even if now they may require some defining.  The long running debate about the future of the NHS is a very good case in point. And there’s the stated desire to get SMEs delivering innovation as part of effective government procurement.  As an interesting adjunct to this, let’s not forget that employees are also citizens, creating a fascinating cross-over of interlinked perspectives.

Of course there are other groups who may be thought of as stakeholders and these will have a very specific perspective on the delivery of public services.  I’m thinking here of offenders – those serving their debt to society and for whom the government is seeking ways to improve rehabilitation, reduce re-offending and become much more effective at identifying those most susceptible to radicalisation, extremism or self-harm. This of course has been brought into sharper focus by discussions over the severity of post-riot sentencing.

All in all, this represents a hefty agenda of public services reform and one which will test the government’s strategic planning and policy implementation ability to the max.  With such degrees of change being considered, it is encouraging to hear that government is embarking upon a listening exercise to garner the views of citizens, employees and service users, as some recipients of public services are now known.  Understanding what people want in order to deliver services they will use is a laudable objective, but what a task this must represent.  How on earth do you make this achievable?  Consider for a moment the potential population sample.  What constituency would you choose?  How do you get people to participate with sensible and meaningful responses?

Even if you can get all this feedback, how do you make sense of it?  How would you store, manage and interpret the sheer volume of data, relating to so many different aspects of life and stakeholder groups?  How could you be sure it doesn’t end up as an exercise designed to prove (or disprove) preconceived positions?  How would you spot the things that you don’t recognise – the identification of a strong belief system (that could make or break any changes in the way public services are delivered); the early signs of a rise in community ‘temperature’ that could lead to the kind of civil disorder witnessed in cities across England during August this year; or the indicators that some offenders are significantly more willing (and likely) to rehabilitate under certain conditions?  I could go on but I don’t want to labour the point.

It’s clear that in an exercise that will fundamentally change how most people interact with both central and local government, it makes sense to give those people a voice.  But this has to be in a controlled and manageable way, so that it is quick and easy to understand what that voice is telling you; gaining truly unique insights and fresh perspectives from which actionable decisions can be made and monitored that make a real difference to people’s lives, be they citizens, employees or service users – or, in some circumstances, perhaps a combination of all three!

Making people part of the process in this way is also an effective way of getting buy-in.  People are more likely to feel engaged, even if it’s by proxy (i.e. evidence of meaningful consultation establishes a degree of credibility) and by its very nature, changes the basis of the relationship between government and those stakeholders with whom it is seeking to engage.


So what’s the point in all this, why are these things being suggested as anything new?  After all, the idea of planning, shaping and delivering services against a well-defined need is surely common sense and is recognised as such by most people.  Well, as they say, the problem with common sense is that it’s not that common.  The truth is that the kind of knowledge and insight that is likely to be required by government in order to shape and deliver its vision for public services, is difficult (if not impossible) to gain from traditional methods and technology. A different approach is required.

What if you were able to poll large samples of the population on a variety of different topics and have the findings presented to you quickly and simply, in a way that wasn’t mediated by ‘experts’ and allowed you to interact directly with the data – at both a quantitative and qualitative level?  What if you were able to see things that you hadn’t expected; things that blew away commonly held perceptions about citizens or employees – giving you a clear and substantiated view of how people are feeling, what they really think of particular programmes and initiatives and how they are responding to specific policies and interventions?  Imagine being able to detect early opportunities to take action on a particular initiative that enabled you to maximise the benefits downstream or damp down a threat before it was even recognised as such.

It all sounds too good to be true, but advances in cognitive based solutions, using micro-narratives (snippets, stories, reports and other qualitative data) captured from samples of your target ‘audience’ and self-indexed by them to provide meaning from which incisive action can be taken, are turning these scenarios into reality.

The problem for strategists and policy and decision makers is that the environment in which they are operating is hugely complex; there are many small causes that interact and interweave to produce an end result, but no one cause is dominant.  The whole environment is continually adapting and changing and you can’t measure it at a point in time – it’s constantly evolving.  This is what’s known as a ‘complex adaptive system’.  It’s the kind of environment where outcomes are difficult to predict.  It’s highly sensitive to small changes, meaning emerges through interaction and, with the benefit of hindsight, you might be able to see where, when and why things have happened and how you could have dealt with a particular situation, but at the time it was erratic and novel.  Sadly, hindsight does not lead to foresight and processes to prevent a similar situation occurring next time will fail, because the next time things will happen differently.  The August riots in England were a perfect example of this scenario, where multiple small, erratic events interacted and evolved to produce a disproportionate, unpredictable and, in this case, catastrophic outcome, which the government is still trying to understand the cause of.

Complex situations frequently occur when you are dealing with people because they are inherently unpredictable and often driven by emotion.  The bad news for government is that, one way or another, people are at the heart of all of the major change initiatives and civil events that are currently under the policy spotlight.  You begin to get a sense for the scale of the challenge.  Not an overnight thing this.  [By the way, if you’re having difficulty getting to grips with the concept of a complex adaptive system think of mayonnaise.  If you’ve ever tried to make this from scratch you’ll know how uncertain it feels as the ingredients combine and the mayo gradually emerges.  One slip and it will curdle, the end result is never the same and it can’t be reverse engineered].

Fortunately, when trying to get to grips with a complex situation, a cognitive approach again comes to our rescue.  It enables us to probe the situation, sense what’s happening where and why and then respond accordingly.  It’s liberating for policy makers as it opens the door for innovation, enabling organisations to try things and see what works best in particular situations.  Fast feedback loops promote a low-risk, ‘safe-to-fail’ environment where those ideas that aren’t working are quickly identified and turned off, enabling us to get behind those that are delivering tangible results.  In this way, new services and new ways of working can evolve, meaning that the end result has a much higher chance of widespread adoption and, hence, long-term success.

The really good news for government is that game changing solutions of this type are really in the sweet spot when it comes to getting ‘more for less’, as today’s economy demands.  The levels of investment required are a fraction of the amounts that have typically been associated with major government change initiatives.  They are also much simpler to implement and run.  Once set up, data capture, analysis and reporting can be built into an organisation’s day to day operational processes, supporting (and stimulating) how it interacts with the citizens or service users it serves, or the employees it depends upon for the delivery of those services.  For example, making it part of how Offender Managers (previously known as Probation Officers) interact with offenders to try and reduce re-offending would be an excellent way to capture how the latter group is responding, say, to changing institutional attitudes and behaviours, revealing to what extent infantilisation (i.e. treating offenders in a condescending manner, as if still children) is being reduced.


A recent case in Canada illustrates how the solution can be implemented to improve the delivery of healthcare services.  In this instance, the authorities in British Columbia initiated a programme to help them understand the perspectives of all parties implicated in the unfortunate death of an elderly patient.  This had resulted from a breakdown in communication and subsequent decision making following the patient’s admittance to hospital suffering from congestive heart failure. Not unusually in these circumstances the single, sentinel event of the patient’s death was seen from very different perspectives by the various groups involved.  By adopting a cognitive based approach the authority was able to bring together front line and management staff to make sense of these conflicting perspectives and, as a result of the unique ‘safe-to-fail’ experimentation techniques supported by the approach, it was able to trial and subsequently implement changes in both policy and service delivery that will not only help to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future but also raised the quality of healthcare provided to patients more generally.

Just think how powerful such an approach would be for Nick Clegg in his quest to understand the complex human behaviours and emotions that came together to fuel the aforementioned riots in England.  And to have this at your disposal not only as a platform from which to take decisive action now but also to generate alerts when the ‘community temperature’ again begins to rise, must surely present a huge opportunity that any civil authority worth its salt would want to take advantage of. Instead it would appear that research initiatives are being launched by those with an interest in understanding and curing society’s ills that, albeit well-meaning and based on credible empirical evidence, may still ultimately turn out to be incomplete.  My concern would be that if a traditional research approach is adopted to try and make sense of what is essentially a complex situation (as I have defined above) then such initiatives risk revealing only those things that are readily recognisable and, having been mediated by ‘experts’, support preconceived hypotheses.  They are likely to  miss the opportunity to discern unexpected findings arising directly from the contribution of the people affected by (and involved in) the riots and fail to detect the early signals of situations that are developing in those communities, which can either be encouraged for the wider good or damped down before they can cause further unrest.  Addressing these issues by adopting a cognitive based approach will provide a much more effective feed into future policy decisions and social interventions.

If you’re new to the concept of cognitive based solutions it can be a bit of a challenge to get to grips with how they work and just what they give you, but once you’ve experienced the power of the knowledge and understanding that they deliver, you start to see applications everywhere you look.  The big advantage is that it’s easy to get started with low-cost, low-risk pilots that can start to make a difference to any organisation in a very short space of time.

To learn more, visit http://davmanagement.com/default.asp?id=833&ver=1

Contact Andrew Moore at andrew.moore@davmanagement.com

Or call +44 (0)1189 974 0100

A standard cloud-based ERP for central govt?

By Tony Collins

 The Cabinet Office has published “Government Shared Services: A Strategic Vision – July 2011″ which suggests a  “cloud- based ERP standard platform which Departments could buy into and from”.

The idea is part of the coalition’s plans to standardise IT systems within government. Standardising could save money – but, as the Public Administration Select Committee warned last week, not if standardising means giving even more control of government IT to a few large, monopolistic suppliers.

The Cabinet Office says that a number of Departments are due to upgrade their supporting IT systems for back office corporate services in the coming years.

 “A co-ordinated management approach by Government will lower the cost of reinvestment whilst enabling a rationalisation of the current landscape,” says the Cabinet Office.

“For example, a number of large Departments who have implemented and operate an Enterprise Resource Platform (ERP) solution need to plan for the expiration of support to the current instance by 2013.

 “This presents an opportunity for UK Government to source a “vertical” solution for a “cloud based” ERP standard platform which Departments could buy into and from.”

On Shared Services, the plan is to 

“reform how Central Government procures and manages consolidated back office corporate services – by establishing an equitable market of a small number of accredited Independent Shared Service Centres and enabling Departments and their ALBs [arm’s-length bodies] to choose between these – in order to drive up quality and reduce costs of these services, in support of Governments cost reduction targets.”

The Cabinet office says that approved shared services centres will “provide outcome based services, using standardised simplified processes, with the expectation to regularly publish performance data against established benchmarks”.

They will be able to make use of different business models – such as mutualisation – to “leverage capability and the financial investment needed to deliver this service and may operate virtually or from a small number of fully integrated delivery centres”.

Government shared services – a strategic vision. July 2011

Mutuals bring relief after the public sector moratorium

The public sector landscape is likely to be dominated by mutuals in the future.  In this guest blog, John Pendlebury-Green and John Jones of Landseer Partners discuss the outlook for service providers in this mutualised world and argue that their approach must be both innovative and flexible.

Last year was a difficult one for service providers to the public sector given the moratorium and general economic slow-down.  Despite a relatively slow start 2011 is looking significantly brighter for existing and new entrant market players.  The Government’s plans to achieve cost savings, develop mutual organisations, and use SMEs and the third sector to develop new ways of delivering services, are moving rapidly from theory to reality.  So, with the white paper on Open Public Services due out in July, now is the right time for both large and SME service providers to look at themselves and work out how they should be playing in this new world.

We wrote about the concept of mutualisation in early 2010. It has taken the Government longer to get to this point than we expected but the number and variety of public sector organisations looking at mutualisation in one form or another is impressive. The opportunities are starting to appear: from Camden Council looking at how all of its services can be delivered to Cleveland Fire Service receiving approval to finalise a business plan and a structure to establish an employee-owned mutual.   In central government the announcement that My Civil Service Pension is going to be placed into a mutual joint venture is the first major “spin out” of a central government service giving employees the opportunity to take a stake in their business.

So with Francis Maude now talking about an expectation of up to a million public sector workers being in mutual organisations by 2015, the scale of the government’s ambition for mutualisation is clear.  With these types of numbers being talked about it makes it obvious that a one-size-fits-all approach by service providers is doomed to fail.

Our view is that service providers, including possible new entrants, will need to invest time and money now by discussing with existing and new clients the art of the possible: what can be achieved in setting up mutual organisations in order to deliver jointly and successfully services that will provide the right outcomes to the customers of the mutual.

This is most likely to be in the form of working with the public sector organisation to help define the vision and outline structure, and identify the stakeholders – from users to the Cabinet Office – who need to agree the idea.  Then the service provider is ideally positioned, given its private sector experience, to help develop the business plan.  The plan needs to cover the services to be provided, the market opportunity to provide additional services and the resourcing and finances needed to make the new business work.

How this works in practice will be closely examined and no doubt later mutuals will learn from any mistakes in setting up the initial ones.  So the success of the pathfinder mutuals and high-profile examples such as My Civil Service Pension will examined very carefully.   It is clear that how the successful private sector service provider and any third sector organisations become part of these new entities, and how the governance, structure and profit share will work, will set the tone for subsequent mutuals.

Now at mid-year in 2011 it is still early days for new ways of working with the public sector.  If events to date have not spurred service providers to action the July white paper should certainly do this. Either this, or the significant number of re-tenders now coming onto the market, should provide some welcome relief compared to the slow down in 2010.

For more details, read the white paper or visit Landseer Partners’ website

Could a new mutuals model work for trading standards?

By David Bicknell

A mutuals-like model for trading standards has been proposed by Consumer Focus, the statutory consumer champion, which in a paper, discusses the future of trading standards in light of spending cuts, the Government’s new empowerment strategy and changing consumer power.

The paper, ‘Hard times or our mutual friend’, by Paul Connolly,  is an excellent read and argues that the Trading Standards community should engage with another Government agenda:  mutualisation.

It says:

“Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude wants to see mutuals widely adopted. He suggests within 10 years they will become ‘one of the major types of organisation providing excellent public services’ in a redistribution of power and ownership comparable with 1980s reforms.

“His reasoning is clear. First, he wants to continue the process of public service reform by ensuring direct ‘in-house’ delivery continues to be ‘contested’. In the past this primarily meant outsourcing. Plainly under this administration private providers will continue to feature in service delivery. However, the Government has indicated it wants a more diversified range of providers, including more small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“Further, creating mutual structures can contest services, while empowering staff and short circuiting the public/private antagonism.

“Indeed, workforce empowerment is key. Mutualisation and outsourcing to SMEs, cooperatives and charities, are both connected with Big Society thinking. Government wishes to divest itself of direct responsibility for state delivery, but to do so in ways which spread associated commercial opportunities to those who have not benefited previously.

“This includes giving opportunities to existing public sector staff. Indeed, enthusiasts for mutuals believe workforce energies can be harnessed to support reform. Frontline staff understand their services, but are often inhibited from innovating by constraining bureaucracy.

“Decoupling mutuals from bureaucracies and giving staff stakes that link productivity to personal rewards encourage entrepreneurship and improve standards.

“Mutuals are not a ‘fluffy’ option. They are run as businesses. But the staff engagement model of mutuals, where rewards are linked to innovation, service improvement and productivity gains, means there is a real prospect of harmonising the interests of service producers and the individuals and communities they serve.

“There are many challenges associated with mutualisation. Is the largest public sector retrenchment in history the ideal moment to encourage people to risk a semi-commercialised model of delivery? Should staff downsizing precede or follow mutual incorporation? And how on current trends will the numbers mutualising substantiate Maude’s claims of an importance comparable with privatisation?

“The 12 pilots on the Cabinet Office website are pretty small, niche services, mostly in the health and social care arenas. Small and mutualisation might be perceived as a natural match, but there’s nothing to stop a whole agency, hospital, or local authority mutualising, John Lewis-style, or a series of small thematically-linked mutuals being incorporated under a franchising umbrella, like the Co-Op. Whatever, a substantial increase in adopters will be needed to match Maude’s ambitions. That will mean lots of services taking a risk. The danger for this intriguing agenda – which has attracted interest across the political spectrum – is that it doesn’t fly because volunteers are few.

“Nevertheless, Government continues to signal its intent in this area. Mutualisation is being strongly encouraged in areas of health, such as community care. The Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill is intended to put wind in the sails of mutualisation, while the Localism Bill calls for staff-managed approaches to be among the options considered in re engineering local services.

“The Trading Standards profession could do Francis Maude and themselves a favour by ‘going mutual’. Under the leadership of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) – itself already in effect a social enterprise – and the Trading Standards Policy Forum, with possible input from Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO), one of two approaches could be adopted: a national super-mutual, covering England initially, but evolving to the devolved contexts following suitable negotiations, could be formed.

“It would be a single incorporated body. It would have a national head office. It would co-ordinate the use of any resources it received from central Government (the implied new BIS monies for instance) to address complex, nationwide and international threats. It would oversee and co-ordinate the delivery activities of suitably located regional, sub-regional and local offices.

“The mutual’s services would be purchased by local and central Government to meet statutory Trading Standards obligations.

“A second option, perhaps more realistic given that some Local Authority Trading Standards Services (LATSS) partnerships have already incorporated as businesses, would be for TSI and the other players to create a mutuals confederation. This would be a franchise support hub for a national network of local mutuals, each created as and when individual LATSS departments chose to incorporate. The hub would again attract funding for national projects and but would also co-ordinate the activities of the network, providing mechanisms for collaboration between local mutuals, and new sub-regional and regional structures, where appropriate.”

It is intriguing to see the mutual model being considered in this way. I hope for those considering creating mutuals, that the Consumer Focus trading standards paper might offer some useful ideas. It’s certainly worth a read – and we’d be interested in your comments.

NHS users should require mutuals to deliver more benefits than in-house, says NAO

By David Bicknell

The National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted risks to value for money associated with the Department of Health’s programme aimed at enabling its staff to take the lead in leaving the NHS – or ‘spinning out’ – to set up health social enterprises or mutuals.

The NAO’s  Report recognises that, at this early stage of the ‘Right to Request Programme’, it is too early to assess its costs and benefits. But it makes the point that the Department of Health has not set measurable objectives specifically for the Right to Request Programme against which to evaluate its success. PCTs expect social enterprises or mutuals to deliver more benefits than other providers, but did not generally contract for them to deliver savings or any other additional benefits.

The NAO’s report points out that many risks and liabilities still reside with the PCTs and will need to be managed if value for money is to be achieved. In the last resort, the trust or its successors will be responsible for ensuring that essential services continue to operate. For a time, social enterprises will be highly dependent on work and cash flow from their respective PCTs. They will also be operating in an ‘increasingly competitive market’ owing to changes in health legislation currently going through Parliament. So PCTs or their successors will need to have a clear idea of how they will react if enterprises run into financial difficult or fail.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said, “There are many risks to be managed if the Department is to get value for money from the £900 million contracts awarded to social enterprises. The Department needs to reassess its approach, when contracting with social enterprises, of not requiring efficiencies over and above what would have been achieved if the services had remained within the Department.”

You can access the full report here

Third Sector: “Pathfinder mutuals suffering mixed fortunes and need more support mechanisms”

Third Sector has taken a look at the fortunes of the current mutual Pathfinders and concludes that they have been suffering mixed fortunes.

Plans for lecturers to take over Newton Rigg College in Cumbria were hit when the college was taken over by another institution.  And a project to spin out youth services in three London councils has been held up because the councils – Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea – are currently negotiating to merge many of their services as a result of the financial squeeze on local authorities.

Many mutuals, though, are making good progress, and some have already been launched successfully, Third Sector says. However, although the government has created a lot of buzz around mutuals, the piece argues that mutuals need more frameworks and support mechanisms in place.

That particularly includes a framework for council workers to take over services, which will be partly solved when a ‘right to challenge’ is enshrined in the Localism Bill towards the end of this year. However, many observers feel the right as it currently stands is not strong enough.

Third sector has also interviewed Julian Le Grand, who is leading the government’s Mutuals Taskforce. He suggests there are five key issues that the taskforce must help mutuals tackle:

  • Business Planning
  • External opposition, notably from unions
  • Procurement
  • Money issues
  • Getting start-up funding

Mutuals: After the Big Society, the Good Society…

By David Bicknell

I came across a piece from Public Finance written by Maurice Glasman discussing what Labour’s answer to the Big Society might mean in practice.

There are some interesting thoughts on mutuals here. Glasman writes:

“There is far more to meaningful work than money and self-interest; it is the way we serve and change the world. The workforce is at the heart of this. The Good Society stresses its importance in the private as well as the public sector. This is very different to the Big Society agenda, which does not recognise that capital seeks the highest rate of return and thus creates great pressure to turn both humans and nature into commodities.

“To understand what is at stake here, look at the idea of corporate governance. The Big Society offers two ideas of corporate governance for the public and private sectors. In terms of the state, it prefers a form of mutualisation, developed by Julian Le Grand, in which public services are provided by worker-owned enterprises. There is no balance of interest in the governance of the service provider, and users and funders are excluded. State-funded services have no representation on the board. This is in contrast to the Big Society view of private sector corporate governance, in which the worker has no status at all and managerial sovereignty prevails.

“Our ‘Blue Labour’ approach brings the two together. Reliance on managerial sovereignty is both wasteful and ineffective and does not engage fully the innovation, creativity and vocational energy of the workforce. It is a contractual and assessment-based model that focuses too much on procedure and not enough on developing relationships.

“Instead, a third of the mutual boards should be elected by the workforce. Another third should be represented by users (the involvement of users is an important part of community organising that needs to be undertaken to strengthen society and give voice to disorganised people). The final third of the board should be the local authority or the state, which has a legitimate interest in procedure, wider social goals and its integration into government policy.”