Tag Archives: mutualisation

Coalition to focus on mutualisation instead of outsourcing for public services delivery

By David Bicknell

A recent article on the BBC website has suggested that the government is scaling back plans to use the private sector to deliver public services and placed a greater focus on mutualisation.

According to James Landale, the BBC’s deputy political editor, documents suggest ministers have decided that the “wholesale outsourcing” of public services to the private sector would be politically “unpalatable”.

Instead, ministers are planning to increase the role of charities, social enterprises and employee-owned “mutual” organisations.

Outsourcing was believed to have been a key element of the Coalition Government’s drive to cut costs and reduce the UK’s budget deficit. But the article says, the shift in policy will raise questions about whether the government can make the savings it has promised – or deliver the services it is committed to – just by using charities and mutuals.

More will become clear when the Open Public Services White Paper is due to be published later this month.

The Guardian view of mutualisation

By David Bicknell

There is an interesting Guardian piece on mutuals published today. It features some quotes from  Campbell McDonald, a director of the employee-owned trust Baxi Partnership, which is working with some of the public sector organisations now setting up mutuals.

“If you are going to do it, there has got to be a set of things that are in place,” he says. Strong leaders will be needed to steer the new organisations, as well as support from government and from those commissioning services at a local level. But mutuals could transform services, he believes. “The prize is that you see big gains in productivity and huge rises in employee motivation. That tends to trigger innovation and will free up the organisation to make things happen more quickly.”

 “If any of this is going to succeed on scale, we cannot allow new organisations to be set up to fail,” he adds. “The mutual option is not a silver bullet, and without a decent number of success stories to point to in two years’ time this movement will struggle to really get off the ground. The most worrying factor right now is that with so many groups of employees considering a mutual way forward, a huge number are still struggling to get the right support and advice at the right time to give them the best chance of survival.”

Two events in May: Mutualisation Briefing and the Trustmarque TE2011 Customer Conference

By David Bicknell

There are a number of public sector events coming up in May. Here is advance warning of a couple that the Campaign4Change has come across.

This one, by Westminster Briefing on 12th May, in Westminster, the latest in a series of briefings  all about mutual ownership models in public services,  discusses the issues for local authorities, employees and communities and has invited the head of the government’s mutuals taskforce, Julian Le Grand, to take part.

The Trustmarque TE2011 Customer Event, ‘Efficiency Through Technology’, on Friday 20th May at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London, features two keynote speakers, championer for British Business and former CBI Director-General Lord Digby Jones and author and futurologist Richard Watson.

The event will provide the first opportunity to discuss with Trustmarque and see demonstrations of some new Cloud based services it is offering, and will also feature  informative seminars,  and provide practical advice for customers. One of the highlights will be a Q&A session with Lord  Jones and a selection of Trustmarque customers, setting the scene for a discussion around some of the key issues arising from the IT industry at present.

Audit Commission to be mutualised?

By David Bicknell

According to an article on the Guardian’s Public Leaders Network, the Audit Commission may be mutualised.

The article suggests that the Communities and  Local Government department has yet to decide on the direction of the commission once it is scrapped. but some experts believe that making the local government watchdog into a competitive mutual should be the preferred option for dealing with local government audits. Others, however, think a mutualised commission could fail to compete against the private sector.

“There are advantages in mutualisation,” says Olivier Roth, a researcher at the New Local Government Network thinktank. “The Audit Commission has contacts with every single local authority and with the comprehensive performance and area assessments, its has experience with audit regimes. It currently audits 70% of local authorities and already has a gigantic market share.”

Recent interviews carried out by the NLGN of senior managers and employees at the Audit Commission, including managing director, Gareth Davies, found broad support for mutualisation.

Other options include selling off the commission as a whole or in parts to private companies.

New Local Government Network to hold mutuals conference

By David Bicknell

With the appointment of Stephen Kelly, the former head of Micro Focus, to be the Crown Commercial Representative to head up the creation of the mutuals from existing teams within central government departments, it seems mutualisation momentum is growing.

The latest event to be organised is one by the New Local Government Network, which plans to hold a conference on 14th June in London, where one of the speakers will be Professor Julian Le Grand, leader of the Mutuals Taskforce.

You can find details of the conference here

Public Services White Paper Delayed until May

By David Bicknell

Earlier in the week, I wondered whether we would hear anything in the Budget that night offer some clues as to how mutualisation might develop, given that there is much anticipation from interested parties.

Well, we didn’t hear anything from George Osborne. And the reason for that is it looks as if the proposed White Paper on Public Services due to coincide with the Budget has been delayed until after the local elections on 5th May.

There’s some more background on the delay here

The suggestion is that there is a continuing debate over  how the breaking up of public services – an industry valued at an estimated £79bn – will benefit service users, the taxpayer, and employees. Another theory put forward – but yet to be confirmed – is that the White Paper will lean more heavily towards outsourcing and away from localism.

Mutuals do things differently, unshackled by rules – Francis Maude

By Tony Collins

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has asked MPs to visit public sector sites that have created co-operatives to see how they have changed their ways of working.

He told a committee of MPs:

“I can point you to some fantastic ones where people are just thinking in sometimes tiny ways, ways of doing things differently, that deliver a better service for less money because they have thought about it.

“And they are not subject to some hierarchy and some set of rules that prevents them doing it. They just do it.”

Ian Watmore, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, told the same hearing of the Public Administration Select Committee, that he and his colleagues will be publishing a White Paper on proposed reforms. 

“I believe mutualisation will be a big part of that and it will enable the Government to deliver on the reforms that it has already set out and it will trigger new reforms as people come up with more innovative ideas at the front line,” said Watmore

Maude said that mutualisation will help to bring about massive decentralisation. “I would recommend, with the interest this Committee has, going and visiting some of these mutuals because the way in which they operate.”

The workers “do things fantastically differently”, added Maude.

The committee’s chairman, Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin told Maude that if he wanted to develop good examples of decentralisation, his intentions should be set out in a plan.   

Said Jenkin“If your plan is to develop supreme examples and really good examples of decentralisation and innovative ways of doing things, well then set that out, because having a plan is an act of leadership and without an act of leadership there won’t be change.” 

Maude replied that setting out a plan and processes could kill mutualisation. He said:  “When we started talking about how we are going to support mutuals, the first response was: ‘Well, we need to have a plan, a programme, and devise rights and systems and processes.’ And when I reflected on that, I thought, ‘I could not think of a better way of killing the idea dead.’

“… The right approach is to find people who want to do this and support them, and as they try and set up their cooperatives and mutuals find out what the blocks are.”

Kelvin Hopkins, a Labour member of the committee, asked Maude whether mutuals would be less accountable to Parliament. Maude’s replies appeared, in part, contradictory.

He said mutuals could turn out to be more accountable. But when Jenkin said later that decentralisation means a “stretching of the elastic bands of accountability in the traditional sense”, Maude replied:

“Yes, totally.”

Mutuals require clarity and guidance to change the public sector landscape, says Reform

By David Bicknell

There’s an illuminating piece written by Will Tanner from Reform on Conservative Home Comment all about mutualisation and why the development of new vehicles for public service delivery and the proliferation of employee ownership models of organisation promises a step-change in the productivity, efficiency and user satisfaction of public services.

But for mutuals to revolutionise the way in which services are delivered, says Tanner, there needs to be direction and support around the frameworks, culture and expertise needed for their success and clarity over commissioning and competition in the public service landscape.

The Big Society and Mutualisation

By David Bicknell 

I was interested in David Cameron’s discussion yesterday about the Big Society and how the government plans to devolve power from Whitehall.

Cameron pointed to the imminent publication of an Open Public Service White Paper setting out the Coalition’s approach to public service reform, and that paper when it comes out will make interesting reading, and should point the way to how new approaches to public service delivery, for example through mutualisation, may develop.

There has been increasing comment over the last few weeks on the potential impact of mutualisation, and the Campaign4Change expects things to become clearer once the new Mutuals Taskforce led by Professor Julian Le Grand hits its straps in working with front line staff who can see how they can do things better but at the same time want to ensure  that their ‘rights to provide’ are upheld.                                                                  

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, has said, “When you take power away from bureaucrats and give it to people on the ground they often come up with better, more efficient ways of doing things, this is the essence of the Big Society agenda. Public sector professionals have been held back by the limitations of top-down control, and their commitment to serving people has been ignored in favour of targets and regimented structures.”

Maude has already announced the launch of the first wave of Pathfinder mutuals – public sector spin-offs – to be run by entrepreneurial public sector staff who want to take control of the services they run.

These pathfinders are designed to be trailblazers for the rest of the public sector, helping Government establish, by learning from the front line, what type of support and structures will best enable the development of employee-led mutuals on an ongoing basis.

The Campaign4Change has already been involved in discussions on mutualisation with Landseer Partners, the results of which will emerge in due course.

Landseer Partners White Paper on Mutualisation

By David Bicknell

We will shortly be posting a white paper on mutualisation and the private sector by Landseer Partners. The paper discusses how mutualisation can provide the opportunity for a step change in the delivery of public services.