Yesterday, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced a £10m “mutuals programme” designed to enable public sector workers to access expertise and funding that will help them convert the public services they work in into employee-owned and led mutual businesses.
A new Mutuals Information Service and hotline for telephone support are also being established as part of the support package. The hotline will be the route through which business cases meeting the criteria set by government are referred to the Mutuals Support Programme Board in the Cabinet Office. This Board will determine whether the group of workers in question can receive support from the programme.
Support and relevant expertise will be provided by a consortium led by PA Consulting Group, an employee-owned management, IT consulting and technology firm operating in thirty countries.
That’s PA Consulting, incidentally, that shadow Conservative ministers in 2008 condemned for its loss of 10,000 data records of criminals when it was working under contract to the Home Office. And the same PA Consulting that earned millions from its work to develop the previous government’s ID cards scheme — scrapped within ten days of the coalition government taking office.
The government’s Mutuals Task Force — which reported recently — is led by Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics.
Of course, those brilliant political minds at the LSE do know a thing or two about turning a profit from public service. Lord Woolf’s inquiry into the university’s links with the Gaddafi regime — which included Libyan contracts and a £1.5m donation from the Colonel’s son, Saif Gaddafi’s charity — has just been published and is utterly scathing.
I don’t mean to sound cynical, but with credentials like these you do have to wonder just how “mutual” this Mutual Support Programme might be. On the bright side, the Mutuals Task Force does include acknowledged sector leaders such as Co-operatives UK’s Ed Mayo, SE UK’s Peter Holbrook and Patrick Burns from the Employee Ownership Association. Let’s hope they know what they are doing — for everyone’s sake.