Aspire Sussex, the outsourced Adult Education service, has been going through something of a crisis during the first 18 months of its existence. It seems as though the organisation was ill-prepared for its launch and failed to understand how to manage its finances. The last straw was reached in December 2013 when Aspire could not guarantee that salaries would be paid for January 2014. This followed a reorganisation and redundancies, intended to contain costs, and UNISON members were understandably very angry.
Following UNISON meetings attended by three quarters of the staff, a unanimous Vote of No Confidence in the leadership of the fledgling mutual was passed. Further discussions will now take place between UNISON and Aspire.
This development is very worrying as Aspire was outsourced as a ‘staff mutual’, with staff intended to have a significant say in the running of the organisation. The Council has promoted this type of organisation as a model for the future and have held up Aspire as a good example of how to do it. Yet the real experience of staff has been very different to the picture painted by promoters of the mutual model.
The Branch office has a UNISON guide to Staff Mutuals and would encourage members interested in the Aspire experience or mutuals in general to get in touch to find out more.