Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Co-ops, Mutuals and all that

Spoke yesterday at a Westminster Briefing policy event about this agenda which, while featuring prominently in the Coalition Agreement, is still percolating at local level. Yes, there's some intention, enthusiasm even. But minds are so distracted with the wider changes heralded by the CSR that one senses that only a few people have put the agendas together.

Good event. Nick Seddon of Reform was his usual lucid, on-the-money self, quoting Charlie Mayfield of John Lewis in saying that we really need to solve pensions and procurement if this agenda is to fly. Cllr Steven Reed, Leader of Lambeth was another breath of fresh air. Indeed if the whole Labour Party was like him I might never have left. Heading up the Co-operative Council in Lambeth, Reed's plan follows the lines set out the Public Services Trust's report of a diversity of community based providers backed up by a council which would still provide but whose primary role is facilitation.

Ed Miliband really should go to see this man.

Also strong was Dr Guy Turnbull of the Social Work Co-operative but also CASA, the employee owned care enterprise. Guy helped us see how it isn't Terms and Conditions which make employee-owned busineses work but the feeling people get that they are part of the story.

My bit was to report on what I am seeing as a I go round working with PCTs and Councils which are stepping out services from the public sector. Three things to say. Firstly, leadership is totally important. Secondly, these ventures are generally short on commercial know how and need a blood-infusion of this kind of capability if they are to be viable long-term. Thirdly, there is definitely locked in value in these organisations which, upon stepping out, will, with the right management, be liberated. This will raise productivity and hopefully enable these new ventures to square the circle of raised demand and lowered funding.

Like with all these events there was a lot of taxonomical discussion about co-ops, mutuals and social enterprises which is geek only territory and should normally be avoided in the presence of ordinary people. That aside, strong event.

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