Headlines: June 26th, 2012

The Mutals Taskforce believes that delivering public services by mutuals is an effective way to improve services and cut costs. It calls for mutualisation to be a mainstream option for public service delivery. But it found little support for mutualisation beyond Whitehall.

The taskforce of leading experts in public policy, employee ownership and business, has examined the barriers facing public servants who form mutual businesses and take control of their services. It found that the barriers to expanding mutalisation included EU regulations, lack of clarity in what is involved in mutualisation, inadequate training for staff who do the commissioning of services and poor recognition of investment opportunities. It made recommendations for overcoming these barriers.

It also found little support for mutualisation among public sector staff. It attributed this unenthusiastic response to risk-averse managers, ignorant of the benefits. Despite the recognition that this attitude will impede progress of the movement, it had little to say about winning over hearts and minds.

The Civil Service Live Network in a recent survey asked civil servants: “Would you be interested in exploring the idea of your organisation or team becoming a mutual, and leaving the civil service to become a social enterprise or business?”

In response, only 16 per cent of civil servants answered ‘yes’, while 69 per cent said ‘no’ and 15 per cent ‘don’t know’. Across the civil service, there was no difference in appetite between senior and junior grades: both expressed similarly low levels of enthusiasm. Among the 16 per cent who favoured muitualisation more than half recognised the benefits of focusing on public benefit rather than institutional interests and that there would be greater operational freedom.

The least supportive departments are the Department for Communities and Local Government and HMRC. 78 per cent of DCLG’s civil servants and 73 per cent of HMRC’s said they’re not interested in mutualisation. In central government, the department that has most vigorously pursued the mutualisation model is the Department for Work and Pensions which set up the first civil service mutual, MyCSP, in April.