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Concern expressed by Co-ops UK head that new public service mutuals are not following true definition of mutuality

7th May 2013

Co-operatives UK Secretary General, Ed Mayo, expressed concern last week in The Guardian that a new Government-organised ‘public service mutual’ replacing the Cabinet Office-based ‘nudge unit’ is not a true mutual.

This is due to the Government’s definition that a public service mutual only needs staff to own 25% of the shares before being classified as such.

Responding in the piece for The Guardian on Friday 3rd May, Ed Mayo said:

‘But there are concerns. There is no vote for staff in this version of mutualisation, so they can perhaps be pressed into something they don't buy into. It is not really a new model but rather good old privatisation – although with the potential for the taxpayer to benefit if the business does well.

‘Above all, it is not, or at least not yet, a genuine mutual business. Nor is it a co-operative.’

Co-operatives UK – which, as leading healthcare mutual, Benenden Health is a member of – is the national trade body that campaigns for co-operation and works to promote, develop and unite co-operative enterprises.

Benenden Health has long supported the idea of some public services - where appropriate - being supported by a mutual or co-operative model.

Lawrence Christensen, Marketing Director at Benenden Health said: ‘We have been practicing a high quality, affordable mutual model of healthcare provision since its foundation in 1905. The model now caters for a membership of over 900,000 people across the UK.

‘Whilst we’re pleased to see the Government considering how mutual models can help provide public services, it is important to note that a true mutual gives members a proper voice in the governance of the organisation.

‘There are many different models within the mutual sector and we shouldn’t just think about employee ownership. At benenden health we have a branch system where members can belong to a local or employer-based branch – from which, delegates are elected to represent the branch at an annual conference. This gives members the chance to influence the direction of our organisation at a grassroots level and builds their sense of ownership.’

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