Tag Archives: mutuals

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

Osborne’s Budget speech may provide update on Coalition’s mutuals plans

By David Bicknell

Will Wednesday’s Budget bring further news on the Coalition’s plans and prospects for public sector mutuals?

Yesterday’s Independent believes it might. An article by Business Editor James Ashton suggests that Chancellor George Osborne  is likely to “talk up the progress made in Whitehall reforms” in his Budget statement.

It argues that “thousands of civil servants will be transferred into the private sector under a blueprint to shake up Whitehall that will be unveiled next month.”

Ashton suggests that new recommendations on spin-outs are due to be outlined  in a report by Stephen Kelly, the Cabinet Office’s Crown Commercial Representative.

The report is expected to say that “there are numerous government operations that could be potentially commercialised, either through forging partnerships with outside firms or seeking capital injections.”

Related Link

Stephen Kelly – the man at the coal face of the Big Society

From The Sun: “Run fire service like John Lewis”

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.’

Audit Commission: the feeling’s not mutual

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.

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: a novel means of driving down demand for public services?

By David Bicknell

A recent piece in the Guardian local government network has come up with the intriguing idea that mutuals can help drive down demand for public services.

The article, by Ross Griffiths, a partner at law firm Cobbetts,  suggests that if  as a service user, you are dealing with a provider that is your mutual, you are more likely to think twice about the demands you are making on it, and the effect that might have on the service and other users. It argues that this is the ‘Holy Grail’ of the mutual project – allowing providers to deliver services more cheaply not by making cuts, but by reducing demand.

The piece asks whether in today’s local government, where efficiency must be a big part of any changes to services, this is something that mutual structures can deliver. Or are they, as the article asks, ‘little more than a frivolity that should be saved for less straitened times?’

Links

http://www.guardian.co.uk/local-government-network/2011/dec/08/new-mutuals-pick-winners

http://www.number10.gov.uk/take-part/public-services/start-a-public-service-mutual/

Part equity models for mutuals could revive outsourcing sector

By Robert Morgan

Few can be in any doubt of the coalition government commitment to worker inclusive mutuals and the potential for not only smaller government as a result but a revival of the outsourcing services industry.  This model acts as a template to appease European workers councils who have long held back the greater use of outsourcing in country like France and Germany.

Headline grabbers like ““Ministers are poised to launch one of the biggest experiments in public sector reform … a John Lewis-style mutual – the first to be created in central government”, and “… three or four more Mutuals THIS year …” and “…1,000,000 public sector workers in Mutuals by 2015” in the Financial Times this week has not been picked by the bulk of the popular press. But they and the continental press soon will.

Francis Maude, Mutualisation’s marketing guru has said of the MyCSP mutual ““I don’t … view this as the ultimate model … we have learnt … The next one should be easier to do”. The award of the MyCSP contract, rumoured to be ten years with a break clause at year seven, will administer 1.5m government pensions, transfer 500 DWP staff into the SPV, see CEO compensation capped at 8% above average employee salary, net profits shared with the supplier but only after 1% going to charity and 1% going to apprenticeships, and employees interests will be represented by an externally advertised director. So part of the model are clear – a new form of privatisation with Jon Lewis style employee participation and share ownership and a “caring” social charter.

But has government learnt from Labour’s disasters in PFI / PPP – you know the £120 to change a light bulb stories. Key questions need answers:

  • To what extent will the mutual be given freedom to operate?
  • At least in the short-term, a mutual remains tied to its public sector background and delivery and is therefore subject to the rigours and constraints of regulation, OJEU and accountability to the Auditor General. Will these restrictions be “officially loosened” any time soon?
  • Everyone agrees that the public sector will continue to shrink and by definition therefore, so will a dependent mutual’s service revenues, this throws up questions on it’s ability to survive – and to attract external revenues, and so …
  • … will the choice of partner be heavily dependent on their demonstrated ability or commitment to develop such services?
  • What penalties are there for NOT securing external business?
  • How might the Mutual formula vary and evolve between different circumstances?

More importantly for the outsourcing industry is, are more commercial models going to spring up and be accepted. The consensus of clients I have spoken to is “yes”, but this needs to be balanced with the fact that there was not a single tier one outsourcer (IBM, CSC, HP) in the short-list for MyCSP.  Demand says “yes” and Supply says “yawn”. 

Robert Morgan, formerly the founder of Morgan Chambers and now director of outsourcing advisory Burnt Oak Partners, is delivering a speech on Part Equity models for commerce on Wednesday 8th February 2012 at Berwin Leighton Paisner – the event is free and tickets can be coordinated via  shan,murad@blplaw.com  – yes it is a comma!

Robert also writes the influential Outsourcing Lex column at

http://www.burntoak-partners.com/viewpoint/outsourcings-lex-column/

Transition Institute launches mutuals ‘spin-out’ camps

By David Bicknell

The Transition Institute has come up with a good idea: spin out camps. It plans to hold three over the coming months which will feature networking sessions and practical workshops discussing business design, implementing the business plan and service innovation, all delivered by experts in the field.

The scheduled months for the camps are:

  • North West – March 2012
  • North East – May 2012
  • Midlands – July 2012

Visit the Transition Institute website for more details

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

DWP civil servants get ready for MyCSP mutual leap

By David Bicknell

An article  published yesterday in the Financial Times has focused on the move of 500 civil servants to form a mutual.

The 500 staff, currently in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), will leave the public sector in March and become stakeholders in MyCSP, a privately held company that will handle the retirement funds of 1.5m civil servants.

The FT calls the move to create a so-called John Lewis-style mutual, “one of the biggest experiments in public sector reform.”

It writes that under the MyCSP model, profits will be shared between a private sector provider, which will hold a 42 per cent stake; the government, with 33 per cent; and employees, who will own 25 per cent of the shares. 

A shortlist of 16 private sector providers has been whittled down to four – Xafinity, Capita, JLT and Wipro – with the winner due to be announced next month.

In light of the ongoing row over executive pay, the FT points out that the chief executive’s compensation will be capped at 8 per cent above the average employee’s salary while 1 per cent of net profits will be paid to charities and a further 1 per cent used to create apprenticeships.

You can read the full FT article here (subscription required)

Stephen Kelly – the man at the coalface of the Big Society