Mutuals for Real

The Centre for Mutual and Employee owned Business at Kellogg College Oxford has joined forces with FPM (a specialist public services leadership consultancy) and Cliff Mills of Mutuo to develop a series of three cutting edge seminars.

Each seminar will provide you with:

• A new understanding of how mutual organisations are able to contribute to public provision – community benefit and multi-stakeholder models as well as employee owned businesses.
• An up to the minute summary of progress so far on the mutualisation – what services have taken the mutual route? How many? How long has it take? What has it cost? Success/failures and lessons learnt.
• An opportunity to think, reflect and work through the key questions that you need to answer to ensure the successful development of a new mutual.
• Where to go for support, advice and information – including how to approach the Cabinet Office Mutuals Support Fund.

For more information, please click here.

Big society versus new mutualism

Peter Hunt’s article for Australian Policy online

‘Big Society’ has been a flagship policy of the UK Coalition Government, centred around ideas of localism, volunteerism and devolving government service delivery to public sector mutuals. In low revenue environments, public sector mutuals offer a potential panacea to the rising costs of essential services in areas such as disabilities, health and education, whilst delivering the much touted benefits of community management structures. Read more Big society versus new mutualism

2010 Mutuals Manifesto: Progress update

Two and a half years ago Mutuo was commissioned to produce a Mutuals Manifesto on behalf of the mutual sector.  This summary provides an overview on the Government’s progress to date on implementing these policy objectives.

We continue to work closely with the Government and Opposition Parties on policies and later this year we will be producing a Mid-Term manifesto in preparation for the next General Election in 2015.


Government should ensure that mutuals are understood and receive equal treatment across all Government departments

In the Government’s Coalition Agreement in 2010, it stated its desire to foster diversity in financial services, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.

‘We will bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity in financial services, to promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.’


Create a Government Office for Mutuals with a designated Minister for Mutuals

While there is a Minister in the Treasury who is responsible for legislations affecting co-operatives and financial mutuals, a specific multi disciplinary Minister for Mutuals has not yet been created.


Government should commit to alter the terms and approach of Regulatory Authorities to match Government policy (and promote mutuals)

Government has legislated to change the regulatory framework for Financial Services. During the passage of this legislation, the opposition pushed for the new Regulator’s responsibilities to include the promotion of mutuals but the Government rejected this proposal.


Government should support the Ownership Commission

The Government engaged positively with the work of the Commission on Ownership. This was demonstrated by the fact that The Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business attended and spoke at the launch of the Commission’s Report in 2012.


Government should evaluate returning Northern Rock to the mutual sector

Government did not do this and sold it at a discount to Virgin Money.  However, although the Government decided to sell Northern Rock to Virgin Money, it did demonstrate its commitment to diversity in the financial sector and the important presence of mutuals in that mix by supporting The Co-operative Group to become the preferred bidder for 632 Lloyds branches which must be disposed off to comply with competition rules.


Public services should be supported to convert to mutuals 

Public Service Mutuals: The Cabinet Office established the Mutuals information Service, Mutuals Taskforce and the Mutuals Support Programme as a sign of their commitment to establishing new mutuals in public services.
The Mutuals Information Services is run by the Cabinet Office and gives advice and support to help public servants take over and run their organisations as mutual organisations. The Mutuals Taskforce is a group of mutual practitioners who advise the Cabinet Office and the Mutuals Support Programme refers to the £10 million which has been provided by Government in the form of grants to aspiring spin outs.  In the Government’s Mid-Term Review in January 2013, they stated that, “We will continue to support public sector workers who want to establish mutuals, and provide service commissioners with the information they need to support the creation of mutuals and co-operatives. We will continue to develop ‘Right to Provide’ policies that will enable mutual and co-operative organisations to deliver a wider range of public services.”
Although, the Government’s focus has almost exclusively been on mostly employee-led mutuals being spun out to run public services, this is nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Post Office Mutual: The Department for Business agreed to support turning the Post Office into a mutual and engaged Mutuo to advise the Post Office on how this might be achieved. This was then conducted through a feasibility paper.
Following this, the Government introduced enabling legislation and while this was passing through Parliament, they published a Consultation Document entitled, ‘Building a Mutual Post Office’. This Consultation was then completed after the legislation had been passed into law.  The Post Office are now taking this work forward in their business plan.


A regulator should be established to drive quality corporate competence

There has been no action on this point to date, but the formation of the Mutuals Information Service, Mutuals Task Force and the Mutuals Support Programme are a step in the right direction.


Ensure that mutual sector legislation keeps pace with company law reform

Credit Unions and Co-operatives Legislation: The main law governing credit unions is the Credit Unions Act 1979. A Legislative Reform Order (LRO) was made by Parliament and changes to the Credit Unions Act came into force on 8th January 2012. The changes remove restrictions in the current law and allow credit unions to serve many more people and use the increased flexibility to provide the services that people need.  The LRO changes also affected co-operatives by making changes in three key areas:

Young People: Allowing people 16 and under to become members of co-operatives and those 16 and over to stand for committees or boards; Share Capital: The £20,000 limit on share capital will now apply only to withdrawable shares; there will no longer be a limit on non-withdrawable, i.e. transferable, shares; Interim Accounts: The LRO allows societies to publish un-audited interim accounts provided they are clearly identified and published alongside the most recent audited accounts. This is a change that will save co-operative businesses thousands of pounds in expense.

Electronic communications in the mutual sector: In December 2010, the Government launched a consultation proposing to amend legislation to facilitate the use of electronic communications (such as email and internet) by the mutual sector. The consultation covered building societies, friendly societies, industrial and provident societies, credit unions and mutual societies. The consultation closed in January 2011 and Statutory Instruments have now been made in Parliament.

Consolidation of Co-operatives Legislation: In January 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the government would refer the legislation governing co-operatives to the Law Commission.  The announcement means that the 17 separate pieces of legislation governing the sector, much of which dates back to 1965 and has been developed piecemeal, may now be consolidated into one Act.

Mutual businesses go for growth

Mutual businesses have reasserted their position in the UK high street, with figures unveiled today showing a combined mutual sector turnover of £116bn and one in three consumers doing business with a mutual in the last year.

Leading mutuals will gather in London later to outline further plans for the continued expansion of customer owned firms across a diverse range of business areas. Delegates will hear from mutual business leaders including The Co-operative Group’s Peter Marks who will talk about his plans to propel The Co-operative Bank into the premier league of UK financial services. Read more Mutual businesses go for growth

Mutuals’ Forum 2012

Join leading mutuals for interactive and informative discussions on the key issues facing mutual organisations and listen to keynote speakers outline their views on the future of the sector.

The 2012 Mutuals’ Forum will take place on 22 November 2012 at King’s Place, York Way, London. We will have speakers from leading mutual businesses, mutual advocates as well as senior politicians. Sessions will include:

– Can greater corporate plurality grow the economy?
– Do you have to be mutual to treat customers fairly?
– Can Mutuals unlock a new investment culture?
– Pushing The Boundaries – Creating New Mutuals
– International Mutual Business Forum
– Building Strategic Alliances between mutuals
– Marketing Mutuality

The day will conclude with a Parliamentary Reception & Dinner, held at the House of Commons, free for all early booking delegates.

Guest speaker:  Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. Ed Balls MP

The Mutuals’ Forum 2012 is produced by Mutuo and is proudly sponsored for the fifth consecutive year by Engage Mutual Assurance.

Please click here to register or to find out more.

Mutual business leaders visit Washington DC

Senior Mutual Business Leaders from across UK mutuals visited the US recently, as part of a tour organised by Mutuo.  The visit saw the group meet with Navy Federal Credit Union, The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC), The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP), Ameritas Group, CUNA Mutual Group, Ontario Mutual Insurance Association and representatives from the British Embassy as well as visiting the offices of Senator Jim DeMint and Congresswoman Judy Biggert.

Read more Mutual business leaders visit Washington DC

Mutuo welcomes plans to develop a mutual Post Office

Mutuo has welcomed today’s Government response to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills consultation “Building a Mutual Post Office.”  The consultation, which sets out the building blocks towards securing a mutual post office, revealed enthusiasm amongst subpostmasters, staff and the wider public for a stake in the Post Office. Read more Mutuo welcomes plans to develop a mutual Post Office

Mutual Business Leaders visit to Washington DC

In June Mutuo will be taking a number of leaders of British mutual businesses to Washington DC to meet with regulators, American mutual firms and mutual advocates. The visit is an excellent opportunity to foster relationships with leading mutual businesses in the United States and we anticipate this international focus will be beneficial to other areas of our work and to our delegates.  The visit will take place from Monday 25th – Thursday 28th June 2012.

Mutual Business Detector: How to decide which public services could be mutuals

Co-operatives and mutuals were given prominence in the Coalition Agreement as a means of transforming the way public services are delivered. This reflected an existing direction of travel for Government policy; the previous Labour Government had directed and encouraged the establishment of NHS Foundation Trusts and co-operative trust schools and all three major parties had expressed enthusiasm for cooperative and mutual structures in their manifestos.

Read more Mutual Business Detector: How to decide which public services could be mutuals

Fostering Diversity: Promoting Mutuals


How can the Government best develop a policy strategy to implement the Coalition’s commitment to promote mutuals?

The Group accepts that the Coalition Government has been in power for just over a year and so there are limitations to how easily one can gauge their success in promoting mutuality over such a limited period of time. However, from the evidence given to the Inquiry, it is clear that the Government has not yet developed a clear strategy to promote mutuals.

The Inquiry found that the Government appears to have concentrated its policy efforts on encouraging the development of new mutuals to provide public services rather than to support the existing financial mutual sector.

Read more Fostering Diversity: Promoting Mutuals

Mutuals Yearbook 2011

Mutuals Yearbook 2011

The current economic and political imperative is to promote ways of organising finance, risk, public service and enterprise, that are both dynamic and responsible at the same time. For a while, ‘social enterprise’ appeared to offer a third way, between state and market; today, we’re told that it is the ‘Big Society’.

Regulators and policy-makers are seeking principles via which to distinguish the ‘socially useful’ parts of the private sector, from those which seek only to inflate private earnings as fast as possible. Mutualism adds much-needed clarity to all of this, by offering well understood, viable organisational structures, that are entirely alien to both Whitehall and the deal-makers in the City.

Read more Mutuals Yearbook 2011

Social Housing: Made Mutual

Social Housing: Made Mutual

Over recent months, RBH has been working with tenants and employees to develop a new ownership and governance model for the future of council housing in Rochdale.

The vision is based on co-ownership, with tenants and employees as members, to build into the fabric of the organisation a sense of shared priorities and working together. Read more Social Housing: Made Mutual

Community Health Services: Made Mutual

NHS community services are undergoing a seachange. These fundamental services which rarely attract the headlines – including health visiting, midwives, rehabilitation, community and specialist nursing, therapies such as speech and language, physiotherapy and podiatry – account for about 10% of NHS expenditure.

As part of the Coalition Government’s plans to create the “largest social enterprise sector in the world”, a significant number of community health service providers are being separated out from Primary Care Trusts and established as independent social enterprises.

Four of these new providers, which are featured in this publication, have been set up as member-based organisations, with democratic governance, and a professional board of executive and non-executive directors. As independent trading organisations, they need to operate in a business-efficient way and to make a profit (income exceeding expenditure) in order to survive; but they exist to provide services for the public benefit, not to trade for private benefit.

Although they are no longer state-owned and controlled, they are constitutionally and culturally committed to providing services for the public benefit, according to traditional NHS values and principles. They are led by people who are convinced that this is the way to secure the long-term future of NHS services.

These new organisations are not yet well-known or understood; but they are examples of the future of public ownership.

Read ‘Community Health Services: Made Mutual’

Mutuals Forum 2011

The Mutuo team and speakers from the 2011 Mutuals Forum talk about mutuals and the challenges facing the mutuals sector. Contributors include Gareth Thomas MP, Will Davies, Sion Whellens, Paul Flowers, Lynne Woodcock, Cliff Mills, Mark Willetts, Peter Hunt, Andrew Haigh, Kevin Jaquiss, Kevin Ford, Will Hutton, Gareth Swarbric, Paul Kalinauckas, Steve Prescott, Des Benjamin, Ian Macdonald and Russell Gill.