Last week I hosted an evening at Number 10 to mark the launch of the hundredth public service mutual. I was joined by the leaders of these pioneering businesses to celebrate their remarkable achievements in transforming public services for the better.
What is a public service mutual? It’s a business that is owned and run by staff who have spun-out of the public sector, but which continues to deliver public services. And it’s a game changer.
Back in 2010, against a backdrop of significantly reduced public spending and increasing customer demand, we realised that a new approach to public services was needed. For too long Government had been determined to keep a tight grip on how services were provided – the choice was seen as between state provision or full-blooded, commercial outsourcing. So building on some early successes in community health, we removed the blinkers, and now we are using a range of different structures to give organisations, and the staff within them, the freedom to act, to improve, and to grow.
Two years ago, we established MyCSP as a mutual joint venture to take over responsibility for administering the Civil Service Pension Scheme. This new organisation has been hugely successful, winning new business and increasing turnover by 31% in its second year of trading.
A large part of this success is down to its staff. When MyCSP was created, we put 25% of the organisation in the hands of employees and gave them a voice on the board. They have helped steer this new business through its first phase, raising their own productivity 15% year on year.
Just a few months ago we reached another milestone. The internationally renowned Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) was our first policy unit to spin out – proving that they too can benefit from delivering differently. Private and voluntary groups, as well as foreign Governments, were interested in the team’s work but they lacked the flexibility to grow and respond to this demand. Now as a mutual joint venture they can. Already the team has more than doubled, and Government’s retained stake means that as they grow, the taxpayer gains.
And we are looking beyond central Government, because these new structures and ways of working are as important out in councils and in hospitals as they are in departments. Across the country we’ve helped grow the number of staff-led mutuals from just 9 back in 2010 to over 100 today, operating in areas as diverse as youth services, libraries, forestry, and social care.
I love visiting these organisations because I am always blown away by their achievements – they have outstanding levels of staff engagement and empowerment, which means higher productivity and improves outcomes for users. Only a few weeks ago I learned that staff at one mutual, Bromley Healthcare, have reduced the average healing time for leg ulcers from 21 weeks to 5 – just think what that’s saving in terms of the cost of human suffering.
I’m convinced mutuals have the power to transform what we do - introducing new ways of working and thinking into Government, and enabling us to deliver the truly 21st century public services citizens need in ways that will be affordable and sustainable for years to come. To find out more about how mutuals are improving public services, have a look at the video, or read this article and look at the infographics on GOV.UK to find out more.
Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General