Peter Hunt (Mutuo — Chief Executive)
Politicians are right to see the potential for co-ops to run public services, but all parties should take care to make sure the appropriate type of co-op is applied in the right place.
This is not just a debate for governance anoraks. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with staff controlling service providers, it is critical that such co-ops are subject to competitive tenders and the safeguard that they will ultimately work in the public interest.
In practice this means that there are some no-go areas for worker co-operatives. Any service that works in a virtual monopoly, such as education, should be directly accountable to the service users, not just staff. This is the basis for the multi-stakeholder mutuals that have been established by Labour over the last ten years. It is a sophisticated approach that has led to nearly two million more members of mutuals through NHS Foundation Trusts and now Co-operative Trust Schools.
Public sector reform remains a priority, but it is important that this is based on a genuine understanding of the motives behind different corporate forms.
• Mutuo is the think-tank that promotes mutuals to all sections of society (Parliament, media etc . . .) and publishes progressive ideas to strengthen the movement.
Chris Franks (Welsh Assembly Member — Plaid Cymru)
The reality is that David Cameron wants to scale down the state and shift provision of services from the public sector. Plaid believes it is time to think differently about the Co-operative Movement as a partner with state provision rather than an alternative provider.
The Plaid-driven Welsh Government has supported co-operatives and credit unions by investing millions. One example of the benefits from this money is Llandudno and District Credit Union that has been the first Welsh credit union to offer a current account.
The London-based parties are all the same; funded by the same big corporations, banks and millionaires that have got us into this economic mess. Banks should be required to invest a share of their profits into community projects and ensure fair lending policies with a minimum level of service across all communities. Plaid is the only party in the UK that has a credit union for party members. We want to see alternative ways of using local financial services to help businesses as well as individuals.
• Chris Franks is a member of the Welsh Assembly’s cross-party group on co-operatives and mutuals.