Headlines: February 16th, 2010

Conservative leader David Cameron has pledged to give public sector workers the chance to form co-operatives to run services. The plan would give staff of taxpayer-funded services, such as primary school teachers and nurses, the opportunity to decide how the services were run.

The proposals envisages employee-owned co-operatives deciding on management structures and innovating to cut costs to improve the standard of service. There would be checks on quality to ensure that the co-operative was delivering the required standard of service to the local authority or the National Health Service. Workers co-operatives have been shown to boost productivity and staff morale and to reduce absenteeism. Financial surpluses would be shared among the staff.

The plan would allow community nursing teams, primary schools and job centres to take ownership of their own enterprise and run it as a non-for-profit social enterprise or co-operative to provide state services.

Under the ‘right to request’ scheme introduced by the NHS in December last year, frontline staff in Primary Care Trusts can set up a social enterprise to improve their services. Some twenty projects are in progress covering services for homeless people, children and patients with mental health problems. Each project received £30,000 from the Department of Health and they receive support from a dedicated mentor. Staff are also be able to benefit from professional development opportunities.

The new plan would extend the principle of ‘right to request’ to education and employment.