David Miliband has proposed turning the BBC into a co-operative, where else could we open the public up to the mutual?
Back in October of last year, The Ownership State
made the case for a new era mutualism in the public sector, arguing that John Lewis – not EasyJet
– offered the genuinely revolutionary model for public sector reform. In-sourcing services to dedicated employees with community shareholders, rather than out-sourcing to rent-seeking companies, offers the opportunity to tap into the insight and dedication of frontline workers and the engagement and involvement of citizens and communities.
While this idea kicked off a serious debate about the limits of market mechanisms and employee ownership in the public sector, it was ultimately embraced by both George Osborne and Tessa Jowell, the latter calling for public sector mutualism to be the main plank of the Labour manifesto. This appears to have been more than just a pre-election posturing as Tessa Jowell has continued to advance the mutualism agenda within the Labour Party, most recently convincing Labour leadership forerunner David Miliband to propose that the BBC be run as a co-operative
This is a welcome proposal and one which will hopefully push this debate forward, raising the further question: where else could we open the public up to the mutual?
1. The Banks
While Vince Cable has disappointingly indicated that he no longer
supports turning publicly-owned Northern Rock back into a mutual
, the public should challenge this decision – or, at the very least, hold George Osborne to account for his pledge to offer a People's Bank Bonus
in the form of progressively discounted shares.
2. The Post Office
According to the cross party House of Commons business and enterprise committee on the future of the Post Office network, profitable Post Office branches are being closed around the country, stripping local communities of valuable infrastructure, social capital, heritage, support for small businesses, etc. Post Office employees should have the right to form community interest companies in order to take over the management of, and devolved budget for, individual post office branches. This would allow frontline workers the ability to drive reform (rather than be the victims of it), cut costs and tailor services to local needs – such as providing banking services, combating food deserts or acting as a community hub for other business or social services.
The Social Market Foundation recently called for the mutualisation of the Strategic Road Network
. This would allow the introduction of road user charging – thereby decreasing and costing in the environmental, congestion and upkeep externalities of road usage – which could pay for the future operation and maintenance of roads. By giving every citizen a share, any profits left over could be divided between the public, mitigating or even reversing the regressive nature of road user charging.
Any other suggestions?