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Spinning out or just spinning around? The challenge of meeting the public sector ambition to create a different model for service delivery

As part of the Government’s big flagship policy to liberate public services and move one million public sector workers into employee ownership, the Cabinet Office Mutuals Information Service (MIS) was established in December 2011 to provide a self-diagnostic service to assess the readiness of existing services to ‘spin-out’ of the public sector. The service identifies those areas that these aspirant business leaders need more help with to establish their fledgling business and make the case for support to the Mutuals Support Programme (MSP). 

As a service in effect offering free advice and access to ‘free money’, the expectation was that there would be a significant number of applicants and a high number of success stories. However, one year on, the reality is somewhat more muted; in the first 12 months MIS received some 110 applications, with just over 20 going forward to MSP to receive funding for additional support.  

The key lesson from the first year is that this remains quite a radical approach to public service delivery. There was a potential mismatch between the scale and appetite of  people delivering services who were ready and willing to ‘grasp’ the opportunity mutualisation offered. Of those pioneers that have come  forward, many were in the very early stages of development and it was evident that the amount of information ‘out there’ was potentially confusing and the process that people need to go through needed to be simpler because this was such unfamiliar territory.

To help the Government achieve its ambition of mutualising 1 in 6 public services, the service as it moves into its second year will be focusing on increasing the overall awareness of the service, the attractiveness of the mutualisation proposition and simplifying the process for the applicant by building in these lessons learned to date.

Helping people to see the bigger picture of the opportunity that is on offer

The reality of making a central government policy work at a local level where there are other competing local pressures has, we believe, had a significant impact on the number of people coming forward for the service. To address this, the Cabinet Office has created a group of Mutuals ambassadors who can spread the word in terms of the potential benefits on offer and make the connections with others who have gone through the same transformation. 

In an ideal world, this should be complemented by some leading from the front in the form of more areas of central government completing the same process. The early success of ‘My CSP’and other flagship initiatives like Royal Mail are critical building blocks needed to build a more sustainable pipeline for the use of alternative delivery models for public service delivery.

Raising awareness of the service

Working hand-in-hand with the Cabinet Office, the MIS team have committed to up the ante in terms of promoting awareness of the service, using both formal and informal channels to share the progress and insights earned to date, and reaching out to  run regular surveys to assess readiness and interest in mutualisation of services.

Simplifying the process and tailoring the service to individual needs to make information easier to access. 

Two examples under way to create a tailored service are:

  • ‘one to many’ which aims to create an early stage intervention for those individuals who whilst not ready to spin out quite yet would benefit from an intense period of support both to learn more on the technical aspects and work with colleagues to compare experiences. 

  • the MIS team working in collaboration with others engaged in developing alternative models of deliver, intend to publish a route map, akin to a London tube map, to provide an overview for applicants. The aim is to simplify the choices currently offer, to improve the sign posting of those choices and to help avoid the feeling of dread that there may be 101 ways to break free, but they all involve filling in a form that is ever so slightly different from the last one.

The stark reality is that the MIS is a key platform to help achieve the target of one million employees delivering services from public sector mutuals. However, getting that message out there, providing tailored support and advice to transition services into sustainable businesses is essential if highly valued services are to survive and thrive.

To find out more about PA's work with the MIS, please contact us now.

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