Today saw the announcement of who won the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) competitions to deliver the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda which will take the probation service out of the public sector.
The big winners were Sodexo and Interserve who, between them, won the overwhelming majority of areas, along with their partners.
The one standalone Mutual still in the race, Aspire2Change in Essex, lost.
The domination of the competitions by two massive global firms - albeit ones working in partnership with third sector organisations - begs the question of whether social enterprise, Mutuals or charity sectors will ever be able to win big public sector contracts without a big private partner.
It’s quite a sad day for the Mutuals sector. Eighteen months ago, several Probation Trusts set out business cases to be considered as Public Service Mutuals. By the end of the TR PQQ only one - Aspire2 Change - had survived as an independent, staff-led bid. And now their bid has bitten the dust.
I am personally very sad for the Essex team and their backers who put heart-and-soul into their bid and wish them the best from here.
Where does the TR result leave the Mutuals agenda? The sceptics who predicted this outcome at the beginning of the TR process, when staff were enthusiastically running the numbers on Mutual bids, now look like the sages.
Conversely many of us who helped the Mutuals now feel a bit like we may have been a touch naive in our belief, like backing FC United to beat Manchester United in a knock-out tie and being surprised when the Premier league wins convincingly.
Of course, it was never writ that a Mutual would win. The reality is probably that, like the charity and social enterprise sector, the Mutuals are perhaps better placed to be sat in the supply-chain than atop the pyramid as a prime provider. Without capital, scale and a clear business track-record, it is perhaps the only place they could ever have ended up?
Craig Dearden-Phillips - Managing DirectorBack to stepping out now