The Coalition Government claim that in 2009 that there were 9 mutuals delivering public services and 100 in 2014. Francis Maude and leading official Rannia Leontaridi have described mutuals as a “Cabinet Office success story”. Many observers are under the impression that this mutualisation programme has accelerated. Has it?
In fact, very few of these spin-outs are actually mutuals in the normal sense of the word. Often, they tend to be social enterprises. Sometimes, they have some degree of employee ownership. A few are joint ventures, some are owned by private interests, some are charities, many are CICs. But let’s not concern ourselves too much with that, as Francis doesn’t.
What we should be concerned about is whether politicians’ claims are true (and indeed, civil servants’ claims too). Have we seen an acceleration in these spin-outs? Let’s look at the available figures:
  • There were somewhere between 154 and 191 housing associations stock transfers between 1988 and 2008, depending how you count [1].
  • After GLL’s creation in 1993, leisure trust spin-outs grew from 40 in 1997 to over 90 in 2006 [2]. In fact, the then Chancellor Gordon Brown had his own ‘mutuals support programme’ with £30 million for community groups to support their take over the management or ownership of local assets in England.
  • The Department for Health created the Right to Request under the Labour government in 2008. This gave a right to staff to request to spin-out, alongside significant funding and support from officials in the Department of Health. The first wave, launched in 2009 included 14 enterprises [3] which eventually span-out.
  • The Right to Request second wave, announced under the new Coalition government in August 2010 included 8 more ‘mutuals’. The third wave, announced in November 2010, included 18 enterprises which eventually emerged.
It was in August 2010 that Francis Maude announced that all departments would put in place a new Right to Provide. In November 2010, he unveiled his package of support for these emerging mutuals [4]. This is when we can start counting.

So from the Cabinet Office’s list of 100 mutuals, we need to remove the Right to Request spin-outs and any other that were created before the Coalition came to power. (The 100 includes many of these like Central Surrey Health and GLL, Oldham Community Leisure and the Real Ideas Organisation. It also includes the likes of Salvere and Spiral Health which started their journey under the Labour government but emerged later). This leaves us with just over 50 spin-outs - or Maude's mutuals.

So the story of spin-outs over the last few decades looks something like the graph above. The precise figures per year are not accurate, merely illustrative but the size of the 'mounds' is based on the best available data from the JRF, Audit Commission, DH and Cabinet Office.

All in all, there are many more than 100 spin-out ‘mutuals’ now - housing associations, leisure trusts and others. Probably more like 300 or 400. Most of these 'span out' of the public sector thanks to support that was in place before this government came to power. Around half of the 100 mutuals claimed as a success story by the Cabinet Office have nothing to do with Francis Maude, as they were supported by initiatives developed by Labour before his time in office. Perhaps the only thing that has accelerated is the spin.





[4] and