The proposal to introduce staff cooperatives to run services will work only if government remains focused on the vision and principle, and does not become distracted by the discussion of the detailed consequences.

Although the idea is good, nevertheless it is one of a long line of similar ideas. For the NHS, the introduction of self-governing trusts in the early 1990s, which created a far bigger furore than any subsequent, similar proposal, ran quickly into the sand. This was because, it was said at the time, of the dead hand of the Treasury not willing to support greater financial freedoms. Whilst the successor policy to self-governing trusts - foundation trusts - has been more successful, for example in terms of the quality of management, it has not been the great managerial revolution that was predicted.  

When greater management freedoms are proposed for the public sector commentators are quick to jump on the detailed practicalities, such as pension and other employment arrangements. This is important but it’s largely displacement activity.

The real test with these proposals is, would government allow implementation in the true spirit of the policy? Would they not drown it in massive bureaucracy and interference? My view is that unless there’s a radical re-think of governmental principles for the organisation and management of public services, for example creating more organisations akin to the independent status of universities, then government will struggle in letting go. And is there any sign of that on the election horizon? No, I didn’t think so either.