By David Bicknell
For those contemplating setting up public sector mutuals, the headline on a piece by Craig Dearden-Phillips in the Guardian about their legal and contractual prospects may start ringing alarm bells.
“Are public sector spin-outs on shaky ground?’ sounds a very pessimistic view in the wake of a successful action by Michael Lloyd to prevent 3000 NHS staff being transferred into Gloucestershire Care Services, a new social enterprise.
The outcome of the case, as Dearden-Phillips points out, is likely to affect the way in which the NHS and local councils approach the question of how they set up mutuals and social enterprises.
“Last week’s events in Gloucestershire were, without doubt, a setback for the mutuals agenda in the NHS and councils,” he says. “Lloyd may well rue the day he took the action he did, particularly if those NHS services end up in the hands of for-profit operators. But Gloucestershire was not a decisive reversal. What events there showed was not that spin-outs from public bodies cannot be engineered, but that those leading them need to navigate the law, and public opinion, with care.”
Leigh Day & Co Solicitors’ statement
Stroud Against the Cuts statement
Posted in Campaign4Change, change management, mutualisation, mutuals, procurement, public sector, public services
Tagged Craig Dearden-Phillips, NHS Gloucestershire, public sector mutuals, public sector spin-outs, Stroud
By David Bicknell
David Cameron is due to meet the Big Six energy companies to persuade them to rein in their price increases.
But are we in danger of sleep-walking towards a Big Six in public services too? This piece by the excellent Craig Dearden-Phillips makes some strong points about a ‘possible cartelisation of public services’.
He argues that the government needs to be ‘more categoric about mutuals and social enterprises. This sector doesn’t really have much chance in a free-for-all. Government commitment to seeing a strong mutual sector, backed by the will to see it done, is what is needed now if the diversity spoken of in the public services white paper is to be more than just a wish-list. Diversity needs to be deliberately created as markets need to be ‘made’, he says.
Incidentally, an earlier piece by Dearden-Phillips refers to the situation in Stroud where a court order was successfully applied for to stop a social enterprise being formed to take forward former NHS services. You can read more about that case here
Much has been written about Central Surrey Health’s bid for a contract that has already prompted much jump-the-gun downbeat thinking about the prospects of mutuals. Baroness Jay was the latest to weigh in on the contract according to a report last week.
I would suggest that perhaps it’s time for a bit of perspective here. It’s one contract; and it’s not the only contract that Central Surrey Health is bidding for, I’m sure. Business’s fortunes don’t depend on one contract; they bid for numbers of pieces of work. They win some; they lose some. Hopefully they win more than they lose.
I would expect that if Central Surrey Health has lost this opportunity – and I have yet to hear any public comment from it that it has – then it is already looking ahead to the next one – or ones – after that. And then further opportunities too.
Surely the fortunes and prospects for the mutuals sector don’t just rest on the back of one NHS mutual, and one contract. A bit more positivity and perspective wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Posted in Campaign4Change, mutualisation, mutuals, public sector, public services, social enterprise
Tagged Baroness Jay, Big Six, business, Central Surrey Health, Craig Dearden-Phillips, David Cameron, Gloucestershire Care Services, mutuals, NHS Gloucestershire, social enterprises