England & Wales

Co-operatives, Mutuals and Social enterprises: sustaining public services in an age of austerity?


There is a strong push to use co-ops, mutuals and social enterprises to deliver public services. The government in its recently published ‘Open Public Services’ White Paper is committed to creating a greater diversity of public service providers. Mutuals, co-ops and social enterprises are a favoured option and explicitly included in the provisions for the Community Right to Challenge’ in the Localism Act.

This seminar will consider the evidence about how far co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises can take on an increasing role in the delivery of local authority services. If councils are to secure value from using these models in the future, then it is absolutely vital that they carry out a careful policy appraisal of these options. The seminar will draw on recently commissioned research exploring the performance of these different models; national organisations working in the field and initiatives being developed by a number of local authorities through the Co-operative Councils Network.


09:30  Registration and refreshments

10:00  Welcome and Introduction – UNISON

10:10  APSE: Understanding the basics What are the similarities/differences between Mutuals, Co-ops & Social Enterprises?

10:40  Co-operative models: John Goodman: Co-ops UK:   Co-operative Councils Network

11:45  Break

12:00  Nuts and Bolts – sorting out the basics: procurement; competition and workforce issues: UNISON & APSE

12:50  Lunch

13:35  Breakout sessions (chose two of three).

  • APSE & Simon Watson UNISON – co-operative values as part of in-house service delivery.
  •  Co-ops UK – quality benchmarking /criteria for a successful Co-op &case studies.
  • Social Enterprise UK: Social enterprise models in public service delivery 

14:50  Final Plenary (chaired by UNISON) APSE; Co-ops UK; Co-operative councils; Social Enterprise UK

15:15  Close

*This programme is correct at time of publication, but may be subject to alteration of speakers or sequence without notification


John Goodman, Head of Policy & the Regions Co-ops UK

Cllr Colin Lambert, Leader Rochdale MBC & Co-operative Councils Network

Cllr Shoab Akhtar, Deputy Leader, Oldham MBC & Co-operative Councils Network

Speaker: Stevenage Borough Council & Co-operative Councils Network (tbc)

Ceri Jones, Head of Policy and Research Social Enterprise UK

Speaker: Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE)

Simon Watson: National Officer, UNISON

Who should attend?

Local authority councillors and officers who want to find out more about co-ops; mutuals and social enterprises and the technical issues involved in setting up this type of service delivery model.