Mutuals have a key role to play in region says Mayoral candidate
Key social challenges in the West Midlands such as youth unemployment, transport, mental health and social care could be tackled with the help of new co-operatives and social enterprises, as part of a pledge unveiled by the Conservative Mayoral candidate for the region, Andy Street.
If elected Mayor, the former John Lewis managing director has pledged to champion a new generation of mutuals, social enterprises and co-operatives as part of a wider public sector reform programme.
Mr Street said mutuals – organisations fully or majority owned by their members – and social enterprises – businesses which trade to specifically help improve communities or the environment – were already an important part of the economy.
In the UK, there are almost 7,000 co-operative businesses, contributing £34bn to the economy each year. In addition, there are more than 100 public service mutuals which have spun-out of government.
The West Midlands, has the largest amount of social enterprises of any UK region bar London. Many of the West Midlands social enterprises are new with 43% less than three years old.
Mr Street said he wanted the West Midlands to become the national leader in this field, whether the organisations are spun out from the public sector or as new businesses.
Among the proposals being considered are:
• A mutual back-to-work provider to help deliver eradicate youth unemployment
• Elderly social care providers owned by employees, with a stake held by users and their families
Mr Street said: “We need a bold new approach here in the West Midlands in tackling our most challenging issues. We all know the case of ‘the council will sort it’ isn’t going to be enough.
“This is why I want to use my knowledge of mutuals to secure funding and deliver a new wave of mutuals and social enterprises to tackle the issues we face.
“As managing director of John Lewis, I saw how mutuals can drive higher commitment from employees, deliver greater service and share rewards with employees.”
He said there were some effective mutual and credit unions already in the West Midlands, for example the John Taylor Hospice in Erdington and the CitySave Credit Union.
“Alongside the third sector, these organisations make a big contribution,” he added.
“I have seen first-hand the brilliant work Steps to Work in Walsall does in helping people back into work, care leavers and ex-offenders making and selling treats at Miss Macaroon, and amazing support for the homeless and rough sleepers by charity organisations like St Basil’s and Langar Aid.”
He said as Mayor, he was determined to bring the third sector more into the mainstream via the West Midlands Combined Authority.
“The role they play is hugely important and their voice needs to be heard,” he said.