Public sector staff 'will need support' when forming cooperatives

Loss of back-office support could undermine attempts to transfer to the third sector

The government must examine the structures and support it will provide for public sector workers who want to form independent cooperatives, according to third sector experts.

The government has promised it will give public sector workers the right to transfer services they provide into employee-led cooperatives. Tom Fitch, chief executive of Cash, a community accountancy charity, said he believed the government had not given enough thought to what would happen to independent organisations that lost the back-office support of councils and government departments.

"There are potential problems in accounting, IT and human resources," he said. "If not enough training or support is given to workers, they will suffer a nightmare."

Niall Urquhart, chief executive of Stramash, a social enterprise in Scotland that provides activities such as canoeing and hill walking and was formerly run by Argyll & Bute Council, said losing back-office support was likely to be the single largest problem.

"When we became independent, this was the biggest problem we had," he said. "It was far larger than we thought it would be."

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Social Enterprise London, warned that forcing workers to form cooperatives would be a mistake.

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