Sector helps transform public services into co-ops

Two initiatives have been launced to help public sector workers form a co-operative or mutual enterprise to deliver their services.

Both the Co-operative Group and Co-operatives UK have introduced support for workers through either direct support or a guide.

Co-operatives UK has released a guide, Co-operative Business District, in association with Mutual Ventures, a social enterprise which provides support to front-line staff groups, to detail the journey that staff will take to forming a co-operative from learning about the benefits and risks of ‘spinning out’ to taking practical steps to set up an independent enterprise.

Meanwhile, the Co-operative Group has partnered with law firm Cobbetts and co-operative consultancy Westminster Bridge to form Public Service Mutuals. 

The joint venture seeks to endorse the co-operative approach as a viable model for those looking for a different way of providing services which until now have been delivered by the public sector.  It will offer a full range of practical assistance and advice from the early stages of thinking through appraisal and implementation to the first full year of trading.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK and a member of the Government’s Mutuals Task Force, told the News: “The Government has ambitious targets for the number of public sector workers setting up co-operatives. We need to ensure that they get high quality information so that the new businesses they set up are sustainable, well run co-operatives that successfully unleash the talents and energies of their employees and users.”

Andrew Laird, one of the founders of Mutual Ventures, added: “This guide sets out the key information they need to know in order to have an informed discussion with like minded colleagues and ultimately to take the decision to form an independent co-operative or other form of social enterprise.”

On Public Service Mutuals, Peter Marks, Chief Executive at the Co-operative Group, said: “We have heard a great deal from all the mainstream political parties about the co-operative model delivering public sector services but up until now we’ve lacked a one-stop shop where people can get the advice and assistance necessary to turn great ideas into practical solutions. Public Service Mutuals fills that gap.

“The three organisations involved fully understand how stakeholder ownership can drive success.”

Peter Hunt, Director at Westminster Bridge. added: “Co-operative ideals have a particular resonance in the public sector where there is an underlying sense of purpose in the delivery of services and recognition that values are important. Indeed, significant parts of the public sector are now in forms of co-operative ownership with the highest profile examples being NHS foundation trusts.”

• Co-operatives UK’s guide is available to download at: www.uk.coop/district. Public Service Mutuals can be contacted on 0845 165 5545, or by visiting: www.co-operative.coop/publicservicemutuals.

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