New approaches to commissioning and public service mutuals: lessons from co-operative councils (Report) - RSA

New approaches to commissioning and public service mutuals: lessons from co-operative councils


  • Business and entrepreneurship
  • Public services

This report looks to the future, considering where mutualised spin-outs might sit within new approaches to commissioning. It suggests how a clearer focus on social value brings with it a clearer focus on where mutualisation could be strategically fruitful.

As social value gains currency and cost-based and process-driven commissioning and procurement are increasingly challenged, many expect organisations such as public service mutuals to flourish. Yet progress has been slow and even as commissioning starts to become more strategic and innovative, most councils have not given a high priority to spinning out their public services.

To gain a better understanding of new approaches to commissioning and how public service mutuals might meaningfully sit within them, this short qualitative report looks at the experiences of three co-operative local authorities at the forefront of change – Lambeth, Oldham and York councils.

Based on the research findings, this report makes the following recommendations to national and local policymakers:

  • Shift the starting point for considering service mutualisation: start with aims and values, not cuts and budgets.

  • Think beyond existing service structures.

  • Develop risk-aware, rather than risk-averse, leadership.

  • Stimulate bottom-up demand for innovation.

  • Develop an effective incubation and support capability for fledgling mutuals.

  • Play an active role in market development and create a level playing field for smaller providers. 



Picture of Atif Shafique
Associate Director, Public Services and Communities (Sabbatical)

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