Shadow minister hits out at plans to create mutuals

Gareth Thomas statement pre-empts government announcement later today

Shadow civil society minister Gareth Thomas
Shadow civil society minister Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas, the shadow civil society minister, has criticised government plans to encourage more public sector workers to become mutuals.

He issued a statement in advance of an announcement expected this afternoon from Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, about of a £10m fund to encourage public sector employees to take over the running of services they provide.

Maude announced the fund a year ago, saying prisons, hospitals and Sure Start children’s centres were examples of services that could be spun out as mutuals.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said further details would be made at 2pm today.

Professor Julian Le Grand, chair of the Mutuals Taskforce that is reviewing the obstacles preventing the creation of mutuals, is expected to publish research showing that public sector staff are happier when they are employed by mutuals.

But Thomas questioned the merit of getting more people to switch from the public to third sectors under current contracting arrangements.

"Until the government offers serious help to charities, community groups and existing employee mutuals to win contracts ahead of their big private sector rivals, many public sector workers interested in setting up employee mutuals will worry they would just end up as bid candy while big business continues to hoover up the best contracts," he said.

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