Minister says that Best Value can deliver contracts to co-operatives

Best Value could give employee-owned care co-operatives improved
chances of winning local authority contracts to provide public
services, the minister for small businesses said last week.

Speaking at a conference on social enterprise, Patricia Hewitt
MP said: “Best Value should encourage local authorities to see how
they can encourage local stakeholders to deliver better

Mick Taylor, a consultant who trains and supports co-operative
organisations, said social enterprises like co-operative care
providers satisfy Best Value’s emphasis on partnership, local
empowerment and community engagement.

“Social enterprise gives us the energy and efficiency we look
for in the private sector, but with public sector values,” he

But delegates were told that local authority commissioners
needed to be proactive in the process, not dragged every step of
the way.

Hewitt said some councils were uncomfortable with the idea of
losing control and power to autonomous organisations, run by people
in local communities.

“We must encourage them to work in very different ways. We must
change the culture to one which really values the contribution of
local people,” she said, adding: “Social enterprise challenges the
idea that the private market knows best. In reality it is service
users and local people who often know best.”

Delegates were warned that small co-operatives might have
difficulty working with “bureaucratic” local councils.

“On a practical level, they take 90 days to pay,” said Liam
Black, director of a Liverpool-based furniture-recycling

Kathryn Packer, of United Response, a co-operative providing
services for older people and people with learning difficulties,
said: “It’s easier to work for football clubs and other commercial
enterprises, because with local authorities you’re slapped with a
mountain of requirements and controls.”

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