I’m prompted by this comment to note that yesterday Francis Maude announced that ‘right to request’-type legislation will be extended to other public sector workers. In principle this would enable public sector workers to leave their jobs, form mutuals (or other kinds of businesses) and sell their services back to local authorities and other public sector bodies. The FT covers the story here.
This will almost certainly increase the level of requests for business support and other technical assistance coming from public sector enquirers — as has been a noticeable trend for the past year or so.
A key issue, however, is funding for business support which can meet this demand at adequate levels.
A major difference between now and the last recession — when many in the sector did support unemployed and redundant private sector workers to start new businesses, including co-ops and mutuals — is that then there were more resources around to pay for this support. Currently, however, no one seems to want to pay for business support.
I think the first job has to be lobbying government to ensure that the bursaries scheme proposed in the civil society strategy paper published recently includes funds for all those seeking to purchase business support, and that where money already exists (or at least did exist) such as in the old Social Enterprise Investment Fund, it continues to be applied to enabling people to form mutuals and social enterprises.
The FT reports that Treasury ministers are also opening talks with public sector unions to review the voluntary ‘Fair Deal’ arrangements under which public sector workers must retain or receive comparable pension arrangements if transferred to the private or voluntary sectors.
The floodgates of demand for social enterprise support services could be about to open — precisely when resources to fund support are close to exhausted.
Update 17/11/10: Maude has also announced that ‘right to provide’ will be backed up with a £10m fund to help public sector workers fund the development and business planning costs of new mutual enterprises. More here.