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Suffolk councillor advocates social enterprises for public services

Craig Dearden-Phillips, Lib Dem Suffolk County Councillor for Bury St Edmunds, is an advocate of spinning off public services to social businesses and mutuals. He runs a company called Stepping Out which aims to help services make the change.

He also writes in Society Guardian and today his column (also on his blog) is about conversations with four leaders who have made the change. He writes:

The vital factor appears to be the benefits of freedom both strategically and operationally. Getting away from a much larger public body seems to have a powerful galvanising effect.

But warning signs abound. A trickle of spin-outs has not yet turned into a flood. Few councils, it appears, are looking seriously at this option, choosing instead to cut their inhouse services and tender them out.

Now, this is interesting in a week when Judy Terry, cabinet member responsible for libraries, announced the intention to form a Community Interest Company to run Suffolk libraries. The scheme remains vague as no details have yet been given.

But it has engendered a lot of interest in exactly what Deaden-Phillips is writing about. He finds that there is a need for leaders and concludes:

It remains in the balance whether potential leaders of new mutuals are encouraged and nurtured – or made to walk through fire before stepping out.

I would very much like to hear his thoughts on possible futures for Suffolk libraries. But I hope he will avoid jargon: what on earth does “public bodies need a ‘playbook'” mean?

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