Tag Archives: Mutuals Taskforce

Le Grand: ‘Public services can be delivered by knights and knaves mutually’

By David Bicknell

Mutuals taskforce chairman Julian Le Grand has written this piece in the Guardian, which argues that when it comes to the delivery of public services, no one type of provider  i.e. the public monopoly, is suitable for all services.

Neither is a private firm nor a social enterprise automatically the best alternative. Even employee-led mutuals, he argues, are not appropriate in all circumstances: they may not be suitable for services that are natural monopolies, for instance.

He adds that it is of fundamental importance to consider what motivates those who work in the service. Only if they are appropriately motivated, he suggests, will those working in the public services deliver the quality of service that governments hope for and that users expect.

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.

Maude unveils Mutual Pathfinder progress report and launch of mutuals information service

By David Bicknell

The government has announced that it will provide new support to help staff-led mutual organisations set up and spin out from the public sector.

The government wants public sector staff, tax payers and service users to benefit from the increased innovation, higher productivity and better customer satisfaction mutuals often create.

To help encourage and foster the development of mutuals, the government has launched  a new £10million programme Mutual Support Programme (MSP) to provide business and professional services to groups of staff or existing mutual organisations. 

A consortium of experts in employee ownership will manage the programme to purchase HR, legal, financial, tax and business planning services to develop the most promising new mutuals.

Public sector staff who want to take control of the services they run can access a new Mutuals Information Service.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said, “The Government is getting support in place, developing a pipeline of innovative new mutual ‘spin outs’ where employees have real power. The evidence is clear – mutuals can provide better, more efficient public services.

“It’s time for politicians and public sector bosses to cut the apron strings and trust frontline staff to make decisions. They are the real experts, they know what’s important to the people who use the service and they know how things can be done better.”

The Mutuals Support Programme will also fund support to help organisations tackle common barriers and share information so that many others benefit from the work.

The Government has also published the first progress report from the Government’s Mutual Pathfinder programme which highlights barriers that staff have faced, including a tendency for contract tenders to make requirements beyond what is legally necessary such as demanding an organisation has a multi-million pound bond before taking the contract.

Maude was critical of such requirements, saying, “Too often tender processes go way beyond what’s necessary, asking for massive bonds up front and insisting that the organisations have existed for years. Iron cladding contracts bars all but a few big companies from winning them. It is a fundamental barrier to creating the vibrant, innovative and competitive public services this country needs.

“Through our Mystery Shopper exercise mutuals and other small businesses can tell us about discriminatory practice. We will intervene when problems are exposed. I do understand that Commissioners may feel stuck in the middle. Where they feel they are forced to over complicate things they can let us know through the Tell us How website and we will address the problem.”

Professor Julian Le Grand, Chair of the Mutuals Taskforce, said: “The Mutuals Taskforce has gathered evidence for why employee-led mutuals make sense in public services. The next phase of our work will be focused on making the case across the public sector and stimulating demand.”

Maude and Le Grand made the announcements while visiting the largest Pathfinder mutual, Anglian Community Enterprise, which provides over 40 community health services and a range of learning disability, GP and dental services for the population of North and North-East Essex.

MoD rules out mutual option

Without commissioning reforms, no mutuals within five years, only outsourcing companies

By David Bicknell

The government has been put on notice to find ways of making life easier for mutuals – or suffer the consequences.

As Public Finance reports, Patrick Burns, a member of the Cabinet Office Mutuals Taskforce, has warned that without changes in the way outsourcing contracts are awarded, spun-off mutuals could fail within five years.

Burns said: ‘If you don’t do something with the commissioning environment, then in five or ten years time you will not be dealing with mutuals, you will be dealing with [outsourcing companies] Serco, Capita and Virgin. Not that they are bad companies, but it’s not the point.’

Capita event added to the public service mutuals ‘conference season’

By David Bicknell

The autumn conference schedule is already starting to fill up, with an update of the current landscape for public service mutuals high on organisers’ subject agenda.

The widespread interest in the mutuals concept means a busy diary for Mutuals Taskforce Chair Julian Le Grand, who indeed will be on hand for the latest, from Capita: Public Service Mutuals is the title of the event to be held in Central London on 7th December.

Other speakers include Heather Mitchell, Acting Chief Executive, NHS Swindon;  Margaret Elliott OBE, Director, Sunderland Home CareAssociates; Ben Jupp. Director Social Finance; Carole Leslie, Director of Policy, Employee Ownership Association;  Councillor Steve Reed, Leader, Lambeth Council; John Telling, Group Corporate Affairs Director at the Mitie Group; and Patrick Lewis, Partners’ Counsellor at John Lewis.

Mutuals Taskforce urged to guarantee a level playing field exists for service providers

By David Bicknell

An article has appeared on the Civil Society website which seems to muddy the waters over the creation and role of public services mutuals.

The article says that Acevo, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, has warned that new public services mutuals which have spun-out from government, risk inhibiting other providers in the voluntary and private sector, as they are guaranteed business from the state to support their incubation.

The piece quotes Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, warning that new spin-outs from government have guaranteed business from the state to support their incubation, so risk inhibiting competition.

“Care must be taken to ensure that mutualisation does not block or slow down potential service providers from other sectors,” he says. “And the Taskforce should seek evidence that this is not happening with any of the pathfinders or their predecessors in the NHS.”

Sir Stephen is  also quoted as saying that there is a danger that some public sector agencies may see mutual spin outs as a way to get wages and costs off their books.

Mutuals: white paper offers public services choice as Cameron tells Civil Service to take more risks

It was unfortunate that yesterday’s press conference to launch the Open Public Services White Paper by David Cameron was hijacked by journalists quizzing him on the ongoing News International story.

The event, organised by Reform in Canary Wharf, also featured speakers from big business i.e. the CBI, the consumer organisation Which, and the voluntary sector – “a Coalition in support of the White Paper,” suggested Cameron.

Detailing the public services landscape, Cameron scarcely mentioned mutuals by name, though they do feature significantly in the White Paper itself.

Modernisation of public services, he said, will give people choice and control over the services they use, and end the ‘get what you’re given’ culture.

People will be given more choice to shape the public services they use, putting control in the hands of individuals and neighbourhoods so everyone can benefit from the best public services available.

“I know what our public services can do and how they are the backbone of this country. But I know too that the way they have been run for decades – old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given – is just not working for a lot of people.“Ours is a vision of open public services – there will be more freedom, more choice and more local control. Wherever possible we are increasing choice by giving people direct control over the services they use,” said Cameron, who detailed five core principles for modernising public services: choice, decentralisation, diversity, fairness and accountability.

He also made some key points about change and also about risk-taking for those now in the public sector:

“This is the case for change. If we want to compete in the world; if we want to get value for money; and above all if we want the decent, reliable public services that make life better for people, there will be no progress if we stick with the status quo.  What does change look like? It’s about ending the top-down, big government way of running public services,  and bringing in a Big Society approach, releasing the grip of state control and putting power into people’s hands. The old dogma that says ‘Whitehall knows best’ – that is going.”

“We really need to ensure that civil servants and arms length bodies see that there is a clear set of principles to apply: about choice, about diversity, about payment by results, about the role of private and voluntary sectors.

“The biggest challenge for the Civil Service is to try and adapt to this new culture and also a very difficult thing to do, and an easy thing to say, is that actually civil servants will have to take some risks. We all know that in business it is very easy to award the contract to Price Waterhouse. They’ve done it before, they’re an enormous organisation, they won’t fail. I think there’s a similar tendency within the Civil Service. It’s safe to keep it in house and deal with one of the big providers.

“If we really want to see diversity, choice and competition, we have to take some risks and recognise that sometimes there will be a new dynamic social enterprise that has a great way of tackling poverty or drug abuse or helping prisoners go straight, and we do need to take some risks with those organisations and understand that rather like in business, when you have a failure, that that doesn’t mean that the Civil Service has done a disastrous job.

“In business, we try new things in order to do better, and when they don’t work, we sit back and think, ‘How do we do that better next time?’ We do need a sense of creativity and enterprise in our Civil Service which is clearly there….a change of culture, perhaps a different attitude towards innovation and risk and a sense that that will be a good way of driving performance.”

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This what the White Paper says about public service mutuals:

6.14 We are doing much more than just sweeping away regulations. We are giving public sector staff new rights to form new mutuals and bid to take over the services they deliver, empowering millions of public sector staff to become their own bosses. This will free up the often untapped entrepreneurial and innovative drive of public sector professionals.

6.15 Ownership and control, through mutualisation, empower employees to innovate and redesign services around service users and communities, driving up quality. We will not dictate the precise form of these mutuals; rather, this should be driven by what is best for the users of services and by employees as co-owners of the business. Options include wholly employee-led, multi-stakeholder and mutual joint venture models.

6.16 The Government will take steps to identify and overcome the barriers placed in the way of public sector workers who want to exercise these rights.

6.17 Public sector employee ownership: the key policies we are already implementing include:

  • Right to Provide – we are giving public sector workers who want to form mutuals or co-operatives to deliver public services a Right to Provide. This will enable public sector workers to form independent, or joint venture based, mutual and co-operative social enterprises. Progress is already being made with a new Right to Provide for NHS staff and opportunities for local authorities to invoke the Right to Challenge;
  • mutual pathfinders – the first wave of employee-led mutual pathfinders was launched in August 2010 with a second wave announced in February 2011. These pathfinders are being mentored by expert organisations as well as leading figures in social enterprise and public service to support their growth and share best practice; the pathfinders will provide critical learning as more employees look to exercise these rights;
  • Mutuals Task Force – Professor Julian Le Grand, one of theUK’s leading thinkers on public service reform, has been appointed to lead a Task Force to push employee ownership across the public sector;
  • Mutuals Support Programme – we will invest at least £10 million in the Mutuals Support Programme, to support some of the most promising and innovative mutuals so that they reach the point of investment readiness. This support will be available from autumn 2011;
  • Enterprise Incubator Unit – this has been set up within the Cabinet Office to provide advice, challenge and resources for public service providers from central government departments and their agencies who want to move from the public sector to the independent sector. The unit will help management teams to restructure themselves and their teams into independent businesses, which may include partners providing finance or expertise, for example through a joint venture;
  • Post Office mutualisation – In May, Co-operativesUK published a report commissioned by the Government on options to transfer Post Office Ltd from government ownership to a mutual run for the public benefit. The Government will carefully consider this report before launching a public consultation later this year; and
  • My Civil Service Pension (MyCSP) – plans have been announced for MyCSP to become the first mutual enterprise to spin out of a central government service. MyCSP administers Civil Service pension schemes for 1.5 million public sector workers. MyCSP’s plans to mutualise, which have the full backing of the Government, will give employees a stake in the new business, alongside government and a private sector partner. The innovative ownership model will be matched by a participative management approach: there has already been a strong turnout in elections for the Employee Partnership Council, through which employees will have a meaningful say in the running of the business.
Enabling new provision

7.7  Creating open public services will require new types of investment in public services: investment of money, inspiration and entrepreneurial effort. The Government will promote the opportunities being created by open public services, tailored to individual sectors. This promotion will aim to support:

  • accessing new forms of external finance – there is an exciting set of opportunities to bring new forms of finance into public services. This includes social investment (e.g. social impact bonds); payment for results on capital improvements (e.g. energy efficiency) and the financing of modernisation programmes (e.g. joint ventures to introduce new technology). Work is under way to develop effective measures of the social impact of investment and to launch the Big Society Bank, which will catalyse the growth of a sustainable social investment market;
  • empowering public sector staff to take control of their own services in new enterprises like mutuals – the creation of mutuals is a critical step in achieving more diversity in public services. However, we recognise that this is a big step to take for both staff and the public body that employs them. We will set out a full range of support available to those who are considering setting up a mutual, in the same way that we seek to stimulate both voluntary and private sector development. This will include a £10 million Mutuals Support Programme to provide support to fledgling mutuals that are being set up to deliver public services by employees leaving the public sector; and
  • actively encouraging new providers, of all sizes and from all sectors, to deliver public services– when we say we want diversity in public services, that is exactly what we mean. We will take active steps to avoid simply switching from one type of monopoly to another. We will launch a positive action programme to improve the awareness of public service opportunities to new providers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Many of our policy changes have already opened up attractive new opportunities, for example in the Work Programme and through personal budgets in social care. In addition, we will take positive action on procurement and through regulators to ensure that other opportunities (e.g. in central government procurement) are opened up to new types of provider, be they from the public, private or voluntary sector.

If you want more details, you can access the White Paper here – and the Government has unveiled an Open Public Services website

Parliamentary Committee to discuss the role of mutuals this week

By David Bicknell

Parliament will discuss the prospects for mutuals at a meeting of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee tomorrow morning.

The session, the Committee’s fifth instalment of its Big Society Inquiry, will focus on the Government’s intention to diversify the provision of public services by opening them up to charities, social enterprises, mutuals and the private sector. The Committee will hear from representatives of the voluntary sector and the TUC, Professor Julian Le Grand and Ed Mayo from the Cabinet Office Mutuals Taskforce, and Shona Nichols from business process outsourcing company Capita.

The Committee’s questioning is likely to cover

  • obstacles to voluntary sector organisations delivering public services;
  • the work of the Government’s Mutuals Taskforce in driving forward employee ownership of public services; and
  • the role of the private sector in the Big Society.

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

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