Public Service Transformation

Fife Options Diagram

'Outsourcing' has a chequered history in the UK, from the ideologically-driven forced 'privatisations' and 'compulsory competitive tendering' of Thatcherism in the 1980s to the more recent collapse of a number of big-business outsourcing specialists, the discrediting of this model of service delivery in many people's eyes, and the Labour Party's policy now favouring in-house service delivery.

Throughout this troubled history, Geof Cox Associates have stuck to the view that a genuine public service ethos and real local accountability cannot be preserved in a remote-shareholder-corporation delivery structure - but this does not meant that it is always impossible to combine the strengths of public service with entrepreneurialism.  There is a danger that in an overly-politicised debate the main point will get lost: in many cases, neither complete 'contracting-out' nor entirely 'in-house' service delivery is actually the best option.

Beware any advisor that starts with the question: 'How do we spin out this service?' - instead, we start with the question 'How do we improve this service?'  We recognise that each public service is different, and the most effective organisational structure to deliver it will depend on many local factors: the nature of the service, the staff involved, the aims and constraints of the public authority, the reality (or otherwise) of opportunities for a more enterprising approach...

Kingston Feedback

Balance - formerly the Kingston Council Workstart & Asperger Syndrome Service - a transformation to social enterprise that came out of Geof Cox Associates' work with the Royal Borough of Kingston, went on to take over all of the Learning Disability provider services in Kingston through an open tender exercise.

Balance is a unique joint venture between the local staff and Pure Innovations - which itself came out of Stockport Council several years ago. Geof Cox Associates are particularly proud of this service transformation because it provides an important model for small teams that want to take control of their own destiny, but might struggle to meet ongoing public sector pension costs without the support of a larger partner organisation.

Geof Cox has worked on the transformation of public services to social enterprise since his involvement in the Leicester CityBus employee buy-out in the early 1990s.  One of his best known service transformations was in 1995 - the Newcastle music teaching service to the North East Music Co-op (NEMCO), which became the model for a number of other transformations supported by the Musicians' Union, and cited as a model of good practice by Patricia Hewitt, then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (at the Social Enterprise Moving Ahead conference address in May 2001).

More on the NEMCO and subsequent transformations can be found here.

Geof Cox Associates were advisers to the largest NHS transformation to social enterprise to date: the Hull PCT Delivery Arm to The City Health Care Partnership Community Interest Company (which was in fact the 1,000th Community Interest Company!).

Geof Cox is also an associate member of the National Development Team for Inclusion.  NDTi is a not-for-profit organisation promoting equality for people who risk exclusion and who need support to lead a full life - especially because of issues around age, youth, disability and mental health.  Geof Cox advises on the role social enterprise can play in this work, especially in NDTi's current focus on Community Led Social Work.

Other public service transformation work includes:

  • the development with Shropshire Council of a social worker owned and run service – a revolutionary development because it takes core social work functions out of the local authority
  • helping Surrey County Council, Herefordshire County Council, South Tyneside Council and many others to plan the transformation of day care services
  • advising on floating off the Manchester Arts Education Initiative from Manchester City Council
  • spinning out The Leominster Pavilion Ice Cream Parlour Social Firm from Herefordshire adult social care (The Leominster Pavilion Community Interest Company established 04/07/2006)

  • advising on the externalisation of Newco Products from the London Borough of Newham
  • development of a joint venture structure between Northern Doctors Urgent Care and other NHS and external partners to deliver drug treatment services - Counted4 Community Interest Company (established 04/09/2007)
  • externalisation of a team of psychology practitioners – Psychology Partnerships Community Interest Company (established 31/01/2008)
  • development of a social enterprise GP practice – Willowbank Partnership Community Interest Company (established 22/05/2008)
  • advising the South Tyneside Intermediate Musculoskeletal Assessment and Treatment Service – which won the 2008 Guy Rotherham Award from the Improvement Foundation – on developing as an independent social enterprise, Accedo Health Community Interest Company (established 03/09/2008)
  • development out of he NHS Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training (NCSCT) the spin-off NCSCT Community Interest Company (established 1/10/2010)
  • the spinning out of Balance CIC (established 22/03/2013), formerly the Kingston Council Workstart & Asperger Syndrome Service - a unique joint venture between the local staff and Pure Innovations - which itself came out of Stockport Council several years ago.