Welsh Labour losing the plot on mutuals, says new Bow Group Report

Democracy
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Dan Boucher

A report out today, written by Dr Dan Boucher from Morriston in Swansea, highlights the importance of the Welsh mutual and co-operative economy ahead of next week’s Assembly elections.

The report argues that the mutual economy in Wales is hampered by the Welsh Government’s controversial declaration last month that it would advocate mutuals and co-ops in the provision of public services “only as an alternative to ceasing or privatising services, as a least worst option.” 

The publication contends that mutuals and co-ops should become a much more important part of the Welsh economy going forward and that rather than resisting the application of mutual principles to the provision of public services, the Welsh Government should ask what services could be better provided through public service mutuals.

Of crucial importance, the report argues that the development of a stronger mutual and co-operative economy in Wales will not only be important because it will enhance the Welsh economy but also because it will help renew Wales’ traditions and identity.

Report author, Dr Dan Boucher a Welsh Conservative Candidate for South Wales West, said.

“Given the centrality of mutualism to Wales’ identity and heritage, it seems very sad that Welsh Labour should have to present the provision of public services through mutuals as a ‘least worst’ option. It is disconcerting to know that we have a government that sees a service delivery mechanism that constitutes an important part of our identity (having been pioneered by a Welshman and used all over the world today), as a worse option than an alien, failed statism, whose only redeeming feature is that it is not quite as bad as the service ceasing or continuing through a private company. Such a statement profoundly misjudges not only our political economy but also our history and identity as a nation.”

Suzy Davies, Policy Director for the Welsh Conservatives and South Wales West Assembly Member from 2011 – 16, now standing for re-election, said:

“Rather than constituting a step forward, there is an important sense in which the 2016 Action Plan actually presents us with a step back. Unlike the latest Action Plan, the 2009 Social Enterprise Action Plan talked freely about considering whether public functions could be better provided by social enterprises without saying this was only as a least worst option if the other alternatives were terminating service provision or outsourcing to a private company!

“Despite the fact that during the 2011-2016 Assembly a significant number of Labour AMs also had a co-operative affiliation, the truth is that Labour is far too statist and centralising a movement to make a really credible claim to the mutual-co-operative project. In many ways Conservatism, with its emphasis on civil society rather than the state, provides a much more logical home and Welsh Conservatism, with its stress on Wales as a ‘community of communities,’ the best home of all.”

Notes

106 Public Service Mutuals have been created in England since 2011.The report argues that going forward:

- Greater emphasis should be given to supporting mutuals and co-ops as a model of wealth creation in Wales.

- That the next Welsh Government should consider what public services could be better provided by public service mutuals and facilitate their creation.

- That the next Welsh Government should fully apply all the local community rights afforded to England through the Localism Act 2011 to Wales.