Sunday, 13 October 2013

Public Service, Social Purpose ?

Now for something more topical !

A number of online sources have reproduced a recent article by Cat Hobbs on the provision of public services..

The first part of the article concerns itself with her support for a Public Service Users Bill and distrust of  the government`s Open Public Services initiative. That part of the article need not detain us, except to note that at some points she seems in danger of undermining her own organisations` campaign *.

The part I wish to highlight comes later ;

"Public services need to be run by people who care about people, and - crucially - who are given the time they need to do a good job.

This social purpose is often found in the public sector, and it can also be found in democratically controlled and accountable co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and voluntary organisations. The Social Value Act made it easier for Local Authorities to outsource with social purpose in mind.

Any organisation that delivers public services must be responsible to service users in a clear and concrete way. We believe that when co-operatives, mutuals, social enterprises and charities play a role in delivering public services, robust safeguards should be in place to protect the public interest. They must be accountable to service users, all profits must be re-invested in improving the service, there should be an asset lock to keep public money safe, and the service must revert to the public sector if the organisation fails."

I make no apology for having edited her text in quite a big way to bring out the points I wanted to emphasise, but I`ll provide a link to the full article for those who want it**.  

She goes on to promote a set of "guidelines on what a good public sector mutual should look like", produced jointly by Co-operatives UK and the TUC*** .

My own thinking is that we do need to break out of the stale left versus right,  public versus private debate which so fascinates our politicians and pundits and look at the question of whether things could be done in a more innovative way in future. This seems as good a place to start as any.

For those new to the whole question of co-operatives, mutuals etc (and I`m no expert), a good place to start is .

* Cat is Director of the organisation `We Own It`, which is laying great stress on the fact that there is  overwhelming support from Conservative voters for two of it`s key proposals ( )

** Cat Hobbs - `Lets Co-operate for a Public Sector Users Bill - Co-Operative News, Unknown Date but circa Sep 2013

*** Anthony Murray - `Co-Operatives UK and TUC Team Up to Protect Public Sector Mutuals - Co-Operative News,  23 August 2013

**** Apologies for the lack of proper links, but the Co-Operative News web site kept freezing ****.

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