January round-up

January 27, 2012

As the first month in 2012 draws to a close, there are a few things from the last month that might be of interest.

Firstly David Cameron made a speech on 19 January announcing that the Government will introduce a Cooperatives Bill to Parliament before the next election. Currently more than a dozen statutes govern cooperatives and mutuals, with many being outdated. The Government’s plan is to consolidate these into one statute to make it easier for people to set up and run a cooperative. Currently there are no further details on the content of the new Bill, other than the press release from 10 Downing Street, but as soon as there are they will be published on the toolkit.

The London Community Foundation (formerly Capital Community Foundation) have updated the list of grants they administer that are available to organisations in Lambeth. These include:

  • Lambeth Festivals and Outdoor Events Fund;
  • Lambeth Community Fund; and
  • Santander Social Enterprise Development Awards.

For more information on these funds and others, visit London Community Foundation’s website – you might want to consider signing up to the e-bulletin to receive news about the latest funding opportunities.

Moves continue at a national and European level to ensure public procurement rules can support local jobs and businesses. Chris White MP’s Private Member’s Bill has gone through its third reading in the House of Commons will receive its second reading in the House of Lords before the end of the month. The Public Services (Social Value) Bill aims to strengthen the social enterprise business sector and make the concept of ‘social value’ more relevant and important in the placement and provision of public services. If passed it will require local authorities, when entering into public procurement contracts, to give greater consideration to economic, social or environmental wellbeing during the pre-procurement stage.  More information can be found in an interview he gave to Third Sector News.

Just before the end of December, the European Commission published revised public procurement directives, following a consultation through 2011. The proposed changes include:

  • Greater flexibility to negotiate
  • Simpler rules on dynamic purchasing systems
  • The ability for procurers to evaluate suppliers’ past performance
  • Enablement of electronic marketplaces
  • More flexible and less burdensome rules on supplier selection
  • Faster procurement through shortened time limits

Further information on these proposed changes can be found on the Cabinet Office website.

The council has continued to look at procurement processes and a recent seminar for council officers explained how to include community benefits in new contracts and tender processes. The slides from the seminar are available here, and will be useful to both commissioners within the council and people from organisations interested in bidding for work with the council.

In December the Public Administration Committee of the House of Commons published a report into the Government’s Big Society initiative. The Committee’s findings included a warning that the Government’s plans lack clarity and need an implementation plan, and that the Government should consider creating a ‘Big Society Minister’. The report also calls for greater clarity on the roles of charitable, private and public providers of public services and urges ministers to outline how issues of accountability in terms of quality and regulatory powers will be managed in the Big Society project, and in particular accountability for public expenditure.  The full report is available on the House of Commons website. Of particular interest to the cooperative agenda are the sections on Social Impact Bonds and Public Service Mutuals.


Employee ownership – some useful publications

December 8, 2011

Below are some really useful documents about employee ownership.

Time for Social Enterprise, a report from the Social Enterprise Coalition which was published in February 2011 includes interviews with people from the public, private and social enterprise sector and looks at what more needs to be done to enable social entrepreneurship in the UK. It has a particular focus on the issue of social value, and how this can be incorporated more into public procurement and society’s mindset more widely.

Model Growth, Do employee owned businesses deliver sustainable growth? is a research report looking at whether employee owned businesses deliver greater benefits than other business ownership models. The conclusions include the view that small- and medium-sized employee owned businesses (EOBs) do significantly better than non-EOBs; the profitability of EOBs correlates with giving employees greater autonomy in decision-making; and that EOBs are better employers not only in consistently recruiting more employees but also by rewarding them with higher wages. On the more negative side, EOBs confront more regulatory and policy challenges than non-EOBs, and they can have difficulties obtaining favourable financing from institutions that are more accustomed to dealing with listed companies.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on employee ownership produced a report in 2008 on how employee ownership is changing the face on business in the UK, including in relation to public services. Their conclusions in that regard are “that whilst the evidence base is currently, and inevitably, scanty with regard to the contribution of the co-owned sector to public service provision, it strongly suggests that coownership offers real potential as one model for public service provision, with some notable and powerful points of differentiation compared to other models, which underscore both performance improvement and public support and confidence.”

Some interesting food for thought. Enjoy!


Mutuals Information Service

December 7, 2011

The Mutuals Information Service has been set up by the Cabinet Office to offer information and resources to anyone interested in setting up a public service mutual, or who wants to learn more about this area.

The website has information about the key steps towards becoming a mutual, case studies, and perhaps most usefully, information on how to access the Mutuals Support Programme. This free service is designed to help promising mutuals develop by providing the professional expertise and advice they do not have access to and can’t fund themselves. It will focus on the ‘pre-spin out’ phase, where access to finance can be particularly restricted, but will also consider supporting existing spin out public service mutuals.

The process for accessing this support is as follows:

1) The Mutuals Support Programme will take referrals for promising organisations from the Mutuals Information Service Hotline. If you are interested, the number is 0845 5390 543
2) Referrals which meet the criteria (available on the website) will go the Mutuals Support Programme Approvals Board in the Cabinet Office.
3) If approved, Cabinet Office will contract with suppliers for the support needed
4) Information and learning from the support will be shared on this website

The presentations which are attached below give more information on the kinds of support that will be offered by the Cabinet Office. There is also a presentation that was delivered by the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) this highlights some of the views that they have captured from the voluntary sector about public sector reforms.

NCVO Presentation

Cabinet Office Presentation

 


Mutual Support Programme – government support announced today

December 5, 2011

Today, Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, will launch the Mutuals Support Programme. The programme was mentioned in a post a few weeks ago but exact details of what is on offer are now available.

This programme brings together information, advice and bespoke support for fledgling mutuals. Elements of the programme include:

  • New web resource
  • Information and case management hotline
  • Funding for bespoke professional services

In total a fund of more than £10m will enable the most promising and innovative mutuals to spin out of the public sector and deliver public services in England, according to the Cabinet Office.

You can access this new support by visiting the mutuals information on the Cabinet Office website or via the hotline number 0845 539 0543.


Mutual Business Detector from Mutuo

December 2, 2011

Mutuo, a not-for-profit society that supports the creation of new mutual organisations, has published a mutual business detector. The detector is designed to provide an initial indication of whether it will be possible to “spin out” a council service into a new mutual organisation.

The council have been involved in the development of the detector, having piloted the approach with a number of council services. It isn’t intended to provide a definitive answer as to whether a service should spin out, but does provide an indication of where the service does have a fit with a mutual approach and where there are challenges that would need to be overcome.

The test looks at a number of factors related to the service centred around three categories:

  • Suitability
  • Deliverability
  • Scale

The detector is available on the Mutuo website and includes full instructions of what to do. Using the detector shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes so it really is a quick and simple tool.


Spin Out and Deliver – Social Enterprise London

November 25, 2011

Social Enterprise London (SEL) have published a new guide, Spin Out and Deliver, aimed at public sector workers who are considering setting up as a social enterprise. This short document contains useful information which has been drawn from interview SEL have conducted with people who are currently looking to “spin out” from council ownership to a social enterprise.

This guide forms part of a series of publications from SEL on spinning out, and they continue to conduct research into how public services are changing. Their emerging themes which are outlined in this report include:

  • The importance of leadership for organisations that spin out
  • The challenge of culture change – moving from working in the public sector to a social enterprise
  • The enthusiasm of front-line staff to move to a new model of ownership
  • Confusion over legal models, although the legal structure should fit the business not the other way around
  • Fears around staff transfer
  • The lack of time available to properly plan the development of the organisation
  • The lack of infrastructure support available to emerging spin-out organisations.

This guide also includes information about why establishing a social enterprise to run a public service can be a good idea; being an outstanding social enterprise leader; and steps to get started.

You can download a copy of Spin Out and Deliver, or any other SEL publications, from the SEL website.


Mutuals and the Leadership Network

October 25, 2011

In July 2011 Lambeth Council managers (the Leadership Network) were invited to take part in a workshop to explore some of the challenges and opportunities of becoming a mutual. Managers were joined by a number of Council partners and a range of ‘Mutual and Cooperative Experts’ that included: Mutuo, Employee Ownership Association, Mutual Ventures, PAConsulting and Baxi Partnership.

Delegates took part in a series of open space conversations to explore some of the challenges and opportunities of becoming a Cooperative Council. Delegates were asked to come up with the conversation topics and the experts in the room were on hand to help answer questions and disperse their knowledge.

The topics that were discussed included:

To find out about all of the conversations, tweets and notes from the event please see the event page at Storify here: http://storify.com/skinner_m/lambeth-leadership-network