Consultation on the future definition of public service mutuals

Published on: October 31st 2019

Community Leisure UK welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’ consultation on the future definition of public service mutuals. Within our response, we emphasised the risk of contract retention for trusts. We raise this specific concern as there is a role for the public service mutual definition and the Mutual Support Programme to really help with retaining contracts in an increasingly challenging landscape.

Within our response, we agreed that removing the requirement for mutuals to have originated in the public sector is a good approach. We believe that the status of being a mutual need to align to public sector values and ethos, and that their status should be based on the services they currently deliver, their role and purpose; rather than on their historical roots.

We also agreed on tightening the requirements on employee influence and that this should be a balanced, appropriate level of influence and not control. From experience, we know that some of the proposed requirements work better for employees and gives more influence than others. Equally there is a critical balance to be struck between the organisation truly reflecting and meeting the needs of its communities, independence on the Board (or governing body), and employee influence and ownership.

With regards to the mission of public service mutuals, we are concerned that the suggested change of replacing must ‘deliver public services’ with must have ‘a clear social mission’ is not strong enough to prevent tokenistic inclusion within governing documents, rather than genuinely being a mutual.

Since this consultation recognises that 92% of mutuals’ profits in the last year were reinvested into the organisation, their mission or development – showing that mutuals are socially oriented organisations at their core -, we advocated that 100% should be reinvested in the community served, the organisation’s objectives, the services and / or facilities. While we full-hearted agreed that public service mutuals are social enterprise, we also raised awareness of other, charitable models who can deliver equally beneficial and social outcomes as a public service mutual.

Finally, we advocated for the Fair Tax Mark, and specifically the ‘Council for Fair Tax’ declaration which would help with transparency, and level the procurement playing field for organisations like mutuals.

Please find our full response in the document below.