Headlines: November 23rd, 2007

As the Government appears to be drawing back from a greater involvement of the private sector in providing public services, with the abandonment of plans for some private treatment centres, a YouGov poll has revealed that the public really prefer local services to be run by social enterprise companies.

YouGov polled 2,200 people across Great Britain and respondents were asked what type of institution they would choose to run their local services such as healthcare, rubbish collection and transport, as efficiently as possible, assuming the cost of the service would not change. 64 per cent said they would choose a social enterprise to run services. Only eleven per cent said they would pick a Government institution.

There are 55,000 social enterprises in the UK. They are profit-making businesses which reinvest the majority of their profits for the benefit of their community. The businesses have a combined turnover of 27 billion pounds a year and well-known examples include The Big Issue, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and fair-trade coffee company Cafédirect. A large percentage are already delivering public services, such as Greenwich Leisure Limited, the Sandwell Community Caring Trust and Mid Devon Community Recycling.

An important feature of social enterprises is that they combine a business approach with real community involvement. The social enterprise model is able to cut straight through red tape to respond to the needs of the community and create widespread benefit.

Chief Executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition Jonathan Bland said: “Across the country thousands of social enterprises are already providing innovative and practical solutions to the key issues of our time – whilst contributing significantly to the economy. By combining a public sector ethos with commercial efficiency and by offering real value for money, social enterprises are clearly the logical choice to deliver public services.”