Government’s Big Society looks for mutual ideas

The Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has called for co-operative and mutual ideas to help sustain public services in the Government's Big Society proposals.

At the re-launch of David Cameron’s Big Society in Liverpool today, Mr Maude said the Government will support public sector workers who wish to form co-operatives or mutuals to bid for contracts to carry out public services.

The Liverpool meeting saw the launch of four areas to pilot the Big Society idea. These are Eden Valley in Cumbria, Windsor and Maidenhead, the London borough of Sutton and Liverpool.

Said the Prime Minister: "These four vanguard communities will be the great training grounds of this change. The first territory on which real and ultra local power is a reality — and the Big Society is built.

"They are all from very different places. Rural, suburban, urban. They’re led by different sorts of people. And they’ve got different ideas.

"From devolving budgets to street-level, to developing local transport services, taking over local assets such as a pub, piloting open-source planning, delivering broadband to local communities, generating their own energy."

David Cameron also confirmed plans to create a Big Society Bank, which will help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups by using money from dormant bank accounts.

Mr Maude told delegates that it’s going to be "difficult" to get this off the ground, but that it’s a novel way to proceed: "Normally governments start off with a theory and draw a practical example from that. We’re going to draw the theory from the practice.

"What’s interesting is there’s loads of different ideas with some commonality between them and some recurring, about local energy for example."

He added that there is "massive frustration" from people, but releasing that energy would create "something special".

Appealing to public sector workers to join forces, he said: "One of our ideas is to promote the establishment of mutuals and co-operatives among public sector workers. 

"People who think they can do better than what they’re currently doing and find a better way of doing it form themselves into a mutual or co-operative and bid to carry out public service work. Anyone who’s got ideas we’re looking for some examples, in the same kind of way these four [pilot] areas have produced community ideas we’re looking for ideas for public sector mutuals."

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