Tag Archives: public service mutuals

Rights to Provide plans focus on “potential offered by mutual models” to improve services

By David Bicknell

The Government has detailed how it is developing and implementing Rights to Provide to “empower front line staff across the public sector to take over the services they deliver,” possibly through the creation of new mutuals.

The Government said it has identified local authorities’ services, fire services, probation and adult social care as some of the areas for developing new mutuals. This it says, will be backed by enhanced support available to staff through the Mutuals Information Service and the Mutuals Support Programme.

In announcing an updated discussion paper David Cameron said increasing parental choice in schools, extending personal budgets so people can choose how they spend money on services and increasing the transparency of public service performance and user satisfaction are all part of the next steps to improve public services by opening them up.  The paper updates the Open Public Service (OPS) White Paper published last summer.

Launching the new paper, Cameron said: “Nearly two years on from coming into office, brick by brick, edifice by edifice, we are slowly dismantling the big-state structures we inherited from the last government. We are putting people in control, giving them the choices and chances that they get in almost every other area of life. There is still a way to go and this kind of change will not happen overnight. But no one should doubt my determination to make our public services better, by opening them up.”

Specifically on mutuals, the paper says:

“Alongside the focus on digital delivery, and as a core part of work to reform the Civil Service, Government Commercial Teams are working with individual departments to identify where new commercial models would accelerate reform and improve services. In some cases, this may involve high-quality in-house delivery; in other cases outsourcing may offer best value.

“We are particularly interested in the potential offered by mutual models, including mutual joint ventures, that give employees much greater say in the way their organisation is run, for example the model being considered for MyCSP.

“To ensure that the benefits of mutualisation are available across the wider public sector, we are giving public sector staff new Rights to Provide – empowering employees to form public service mutuals to bid or request to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector staff to become their own boss,freeing up untapped entrepreneurial and innovative drive.

“Public service mutuals are now well established in community healthcare, with thousands of public servants working in new mutuals with contracts worth almost £1 billion. We have extended these rights to new areas, including adult social care and NHS trusts, and we are looking to go further, in areas such as youth services, probation services, children’s centres, and fire and rescue services.

“We have been actively working with fledgling mutuals on the ground, for example through the Mystery Shopper service and the Mutuals Information Service; and we are supporting some of the most promising and innovative mutuals to reach the point of investment readiness, through the Mutuals Support Programme – a fund of more than £10 million to contract for support in the form of business and professional services to groups of staff who want to form mutuals or existing mutual organisations in the public sector. A steady stream of applications is developing into a pipeline of projects.”

The Government said all its departments will put in place a Right to Provide to empower employees in public services for which they are responsible to s pin out to create new public service mutuals. Public sector workers who want to formmutuals or co-operatives to deliver public services will be given a Right to Provide.

The Government will look to reflect these commitments in departmental business plans where appropriate.

Information from the Mutuals Information Service will inform departmental policy development, the new paper says.  

It points out that “the Department of Health’s Right to Request is near completion, with 40 services now operating as independent social enterprises and further projects to go live by April 2012. The Right to Provide has generated interest across NHS trusts, foundation trusts and adult social care.

“The Department of Health is already exploring opportunities to support social enterprises and mutuals spinning out from the NHS, social care and adult social work. The status of other government departments is as follows:

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Further Education – now starting

Home Office – not yet started

Ministry of Justice – now starting; commitments will be reflected in the Department’s business plan 

Department for Work and Pensions – not yet started

Department for Education Youth Services, and Social Work – now starting

Department for Education Children’s Centres – not yet started.

Other Links

Cabinet Office news release

Mutuals likely to be focus of Government Right to Provide plans expected today

By David Bicknell

The Government looks set to make an announcement about mutuals today as part of ‘Right to Provide’ plans due to be unveiled by David Cameron. The likelihood of an announcement appears to have been leaked.

Here’s today’s Daily Mail’s take on the proposed announcement.

More details to follow

Updated: Rights to Provide Plans focus on “potential offered by mutual models”

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?’




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

Conference Season: The Guardian, FAST, Capita events

We’re very much into conference season with a number of up and coming events competing for attention. 

These include conferences on social enterprise organised by The Guardian on 8th November; on co-operation between IT and the business, collaboration and IT asset management organised by FAST at Twickenham on 21st November; and one by Capita on Public Service Mutuals on 7th December.

The Guardian’s one day event discusses how social enterprises are providing public sector services as well as the obstacles and practical solutions to the challenges the sector faces.” Speakers include Nick Hurd, minister for civil society at the Cabinet Office and Nick O’Donohue, chief executive of Big Society Capital.

FAST’s event, ‘Lessons from the Touchline’ has two streams: ‘finance and business’ and ‘technology and soft skills.’ Speakers include Olympic Gold Medal winner Ben Hunt-Davis, Kirstin Furber, HR Director for BBC Worldwide, Doug Clark, Head of Cloud Computing at IBM, Internet entrepreneur and Internet visionary Frank Joshi speaking on the importance of relationships and collaborative technology, and Chris Rawson, former CIO and Managing Director of Exvine.

Speakers  at the Capita event include Mutuals Taskforce chair Julian Le Grand; Carole Leslie, Director of Policy, Employee Ownership Association;  and Councillor Steve Reed, Leader, Lambeth Council.

EU rules should be changed to give mutuals chance to run public services before full open competition

By David Bicknell

A post by Third Sector has made the case for public spin-outs such as mutuals to be exempted from EU procurement rules.

The piece quotes Stephen Lloyd, head of charity and social enterprise at City of London law firm Bates Wells and Braithwaite, who said that EU procurement rules were  currently based on the concept that public service provision was done either by the state or the private sector.

Lloyd said, “We want to move services out of the state and into a social economy, and the rules are not set up to support that. If you set up a new social enterprise to deliver something that was previously delivered by the state, and it has to compete with big business from day one, it won’t work.

“There needs to be a transition process. These organisations need to be protected. The government needs the agreement of the EU that it’s allowed to do so, and this is its opportunity to get it.”

Third Sector says that the Government’s response to the European Commission green paper is that employee-led spin-outs should have time to run services before having to compete with big business.

In its proposals to the European Commission, the Government says, “The revised Directives should make clear that, in circumstances, such as the development of employee led organisations/mutuals, employees should be able to gain experience of running public services for a period of, for instance, three years, prior to full and open competition.”

Could mutuals provide an innovative model for public sector IT delivery?

By David Bicknell

What are the implications for IT delivery of creating public service mutuals and what part might they play in the public sector?

One public sector IT director I spoke with recently suggested that there are areas where mutuals will work exceptionally well. And some  are already beginning to do so. Some may get private sector sponsorship, while others will get charitable status.

These, however, are smaller scale mutuals or social enterprises, and a distinction must be made between those and large scale organisations where, for example, you could set up a mutual company for the whole of IT in a county or region.

There is a belief that the oft-quoted ‘John Lewis co-operative model’ could be an effective one.  One possibility is a shared services model along those lines  as an alternative to outsourcing or a private sector partnership.

That offers the prospect of developing a public service partnership of different organisations, effectively a sort of mutual or co-operative, where everyone who joins the co-operative has a slice of the cake irrespective of their size. The co-operative shares common infrastructure and services, but operates on a semi-commercial basis, possibly working with a private sector partner. Although the model doesn’t yet exist in IT, it is said to work well in agriculture.

Arguably the model overcomes a number of the issues raised by outsourcing and big public-private sector partnerships where there has been financial pain when things go wrong.  The mutual model offers the prospect of a better way, though there is a large difference between this scale of model and smaller mutuals in terms of risk outlook and management.

The IT director said he believe there is an opportunity for mutuals to insist, ‘We’re better than the private sector. We are very responsible about the risks, and we have a public service ethos.  For us ,  it’s not just about making money. We have the discipline of commercial business rigour and the safety net that protects vulnerable adults, for example, in the case of care homes.’

Some local authorities are already considering using mutuals to provide some ICT services. For example, the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham has become a Mutuals Pathfinder and proposed a pilot scheme with partners Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster to set up an employee-led mutual to deliver IT services to schools and the council, with the council planning to commission some services from the mutual for a four year period.  The scheme is due to get underway early next year.

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.

Report suggests international lessons must be learned on developing public service mutuals

By David Bicknell

A new international review being presented to government by Jonathan Bland, an international expert on co-operatives and social enterprise, has suggested that the UK is not yet equipped to turn public services into mutuals.

The review, Time to Get Serious: International Lessons for Developing Public Service Mutuals, commissioned by Co-operatives UK, the trade association for co-operative enterprises, highlights how the UK must learn from the experiences of Spain, Italy and Sweden, where public service co-operatives are flourishing because government creates a supportive environment and provides workers with appropriate business support and knowledge.

“The international review shows that in all three countries, the growth of public service co-operatives has been closely linked to enabling legal and fiscal frameworks, with sector-led support structures that are able to provide specialist advice and share learning,” says Bland.

The report is available here from the Co-Operatives UK site.