Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mutual benefit?

I understand that the current Leader of the local authority for which I have worked for almost 25 years has been promoting the wonders of public service mutuals as a model for the delivery of services whilst at Party Conference, assisted in part by our own trade union.

Before we go much further down this road we need to heed the wise words of Paul O'Brien, Chief Executive of the Association for Public Service Excellence (http://opinion.publicfinance.co.uk/2011/08/mutuals-wheres-the-proof/) when he says;

"We need a proper evidence-based debate on the role that co-operatives and mutuals can play in public service delivery."

As the most enthusiastic advocates of "mutualisation" themselves acknowledge that the UK lacks the legislative and institutional support framework to enable the development of public service mutuals (http://www.uk.coop/press-release/uk-not-equipped-public-services-mutuals-says-new-review) any "evidence-based debate" must lead to the conclusion that hasty, top-down, attempts to drive transfer to "public service mutuals" would be a foolish abrogation of responsibility by elected local Councillors.

The funny thing is, as a local authority employee, I already work for the best sort of mutual - it serves, and is accountable to, all who live in its geographical area of responsibility, all residents - not just those who "join" something - get a say in who runs the organisation at regular intervals (which we call elections) and all its assets are the property of the community as a whole.

The task of Labour politicians is to defend public services - not to pretend that there is an alternative to this hard task.

Update on Thursday morning

I understand that the UNISON speaker who spoke alongside Lambeth's Leader (our national head of local government, Heather Wakefield) made it very clear that the only circumstances in which she/we might support co-ops wouldbe to 'mutualise' personal assistants or privatised workers unlikely to be brought back in house eg home carers.

Since I realise some could read the post above as suggesting some support from UNISON for Lambeth's "Co-operative Council" (which isn't the position) I thought I should correct that impression.

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