When is a Co-op not a Co-op

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2015 Local Government Service Group Conference
19 February 2015
Carried as Amended

Conference Notes:-

1)The continued promotion of co-ops, mutuals and social enterprises by the Coalition Government as being a preferred delivery of local council services. By giving public sector workers a right to form mutuals, co-operatives and other arm’s length companies, the government claims to be giving power to local communities and offering a greater role in public services for voluntary and community organisations and other civil society organisations;

2)The coalition government hope that by starving councils of funds they can force them to outsource to what they dress up as “worker co-ops” or “employee owned enterprises” with short contracts so that the private sector gets the chance to take them over in the future. Francis Maude – in a leaked conversation with the CBI shortly after the last election – warned them that the “political risk” of outright privatisation would be “unpalatable” to the public but that “joint ventures between a new mutualised public sector organisation and a ‘for profit’ organisation would be very attractive”;

3)Their real aim is to shrink the state and marketise all public service provision. The government is not interested in whether public service mutuals will exist in five years time, just so long as they form a useful vehicle for the break-up of the public sector today;

4)However many Labour controlled councils, facing huge cuts to their budgets are also adopting different approaches to the promotion of co-operatives, from a broadly defined concept of co-operation between employees, council leaders and service users in the design and delivery of services to authorities actively promoting the spin out of all sorts of arm’s length companies to councils like Birmingham that openly prefer the commissioning of services

5)If the government was serious about the perceived advantages of mutuals, it would be looking to extend them to the private sector as well as the public sector but of course this is not the case.

Conference believes:

a)The public sector has been hugely successful in providing universal access to essential public services for the entire population, regardless of income. The creation of the welfare state ended the arbitrary and inadequate patchwork of provision that existed when charities, cooperatives, the private sector and municipalities shared the task. The public sector brought equity and justice as well as universality. Which meant that services were accountable to elected representatives and integrated within a national system not just left to the vagaries of the market;

b)We don’t need “staff ownership” schemes as we already own it, that’s what being public means. We have public ownership

c)Oxfam have produced a report that shows that the richest 1% have more wealth than the bottom 50 % that means that there is a huge amount of wealth being produced by the workers of Britain but only a tiny number of people are benefitting from that wealth. We can afford council services and should be investing in our parks, leisure centre, nurseries, care for the elderly our schools and all of the services that benefit our communities enormously;

d)That all the major parties are out of step with public opinion that is clearly and strongly against the privatisation of the public sector;

e)In the sixth richest economy in the world we can afford world class public services.

This conference calls on the SGE to:-

i)Continue to support branches to campaign for the retention of services to be delivered in-house;

ii)Continue to publicise the impact of mutualisation on members terms and conditions and the services they deliver, across all Local Government branches;

iii)Continue to publish guidance, and to offer support to branches facing the imposition of mutualisation by their employers;

iv)Ask the APF officers to produce information for Labour authorities on the problems of spin offs;

v)Campaign to get Labour to oppose the Coalition privatisation plans.