Mutuals are go



First wave of ‘trailblazing’ mutuals announced

A social enterprise in Mansfield is to deliver housing support services to vulnerable people, and teaching and administrative staff will set up a trust to run a Cumbrian college after the government gave the green light to the first round of Pathfinder mutuals projects.

Cabinet officer minister Francis Maude today revealed 12 fledgling public service spin-offs which will enable entrepreneurial public sector staff to take control of the services they run and which are expected to act as ‘trailblazers’ for the rest of the sector.

The list includes the integration of community health and adult social services into a cooperative in Swindon, North East Essex PCT becoming a Community Interest Company and Westminster Council working with employees in children’s services and neighbouring local authorities to move towards creating an arms-length mutual organisation.

Mr Maude described the move as ‘a Big Society approach, decentralising power so people can deal with the issues that concern them’.

He added: ‘Today’s announcement is the first step in creating a genuinely ground-up movement where staff, who are the real experts, can come together to take over and deliver better services.’

The government will enlist the help of big brand names ,including KPMG and PWC, and leaders in employee ownership models, such as John Lewis and Co-operatives UK, to offer Pathfinders free mentoring on issues including business planning, tendering and procurement and building an entrepreneurial culture.

Other examples of the first round of Pathfinders range from The Lambeth Resource Centre exploring options with its employees, service users and third sector organisations for co-producing rehabilitation support services, and NHS employees forming a social enterprise to provide services for homeless people in Leicester.

The announcement was described as ‘a welcome step’ by Co-operatives UK.

Secretary general Ed Mayo said: ‘Whilst we think that all business can benefit from being more cooperative, to be recognised as a cooperative business means signing up to certain principles such as equality, autonomy and open membership.

‘One of our priorities is to ensure that new businesses that enter the cooperative economy, which last year turned over £33.5bn and employed 237,000 people, are guided by these principles.

‘We are delighted that several of our members have volunteered as mentors for the Pathfinders, helping to ensure that these core principles are implemented.

‘Alongside our members we are committed to enabling government – both national and local – to draw on the expertise and experience of Co-operatives UK and our members, so welcome enquiries from public sector bodies interested in exploring the cooperative model.’

by Jill Theobald


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