MPs and Lords warn ministers over mutuals programme

Spin-off services need greater explanation inside Whitehall and protection from sell-offs, says All-Party Parliamentary Group on Employee Ownership

MPs and Lords say Government's mutuals plan is not well understood in Whitehal
MPs and Lords say Government's mutuals plan is not well understood in Whitehal

The government’s plan to spin out public sector services into mutuals is not well understood inside Whitehall and the public sector, according to a report from parliamentarians.

Shared Ownership: The Role of Employee Ownership in Public Service Delivery, written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Employee Ownership, is based on meetings with mutuals, ministers and unions.

It says the mutuals programme requires more "explanation, exhortation and guidance from ministers" if it is to be understood by officials in health services and central and local government.

The report, published yesterday, says the government must do more to ensure mutualised public assets are protected by an "asset lock" so they cannot be sold off to private companies.

Government must also work harder to convince unions of the thinking behind the mutualisation programme, it says:"There should be early and effective consultation with unions over their continuing relevance in services which acquire employee ownership."

Francis Maude, the minister for the Cabinet Office, said at the launch of the report that an existing pathfinder programme, involving 21 mutuals, would be used to find solutions to many of the problems.

"When we came into office, the first suggestion was to draw up a white paper and have an overarching policy for mutuals," he said."I like there to be strategy, but I’m allergic to strategy when it becomes a displacement for getting things done.

"It seemed to me that the right way to do this was to start doing things. We decided to find people who were interested in doing this and help them."

Maude said he believed public sector workers should be able to form cooperatives that paid incentives to their staff if they performed well.

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