Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, commenting on the publication of the Open Public Services White Paper released on 12th July 2011, said:
“The government’s public services reform white paper presents an important opportunity for co-operatives and mutuals to bid for and deliver public services. As trusted organisations that are able to unleash the talents and energies of their employees and users, co-operatives can provide good quality public services.
“Longstanding examples of thriving and successful co-operatives running services like foster care, leisure centres and affordable housing show that the co-operative model works extraordinarily well.
“As the trade association for co-operatives we want to see co-operatives thrive in all areas of the economy, including delivering public services. Like many, however, we are wary of some elements of the government’s approach to opening up public services to outside providers.
“First, there are serious issues facing public sector employees and users looking into the co-operative option – from uncertainty about jobs and pensions to the challenge of public sector workers setting up new businesses – that need to be addressed if public sector mutuals are to succeed.
“Second, in the current context, it won’t help staff or users if all the government does is to open the door to privatisation with fake mutuals that fail basic quality tests of member ownership and democracy.
“Third, there is a gap between national policy and local practice, with a lack of understanding of the benefits of co-operatives delivering public services amongst local authority councillors and officers.
“Fourth, there is an urgent need for high quality advice and support with sufficient resource to make sure that this is in place for all who need it.”