The Conservatives have reiterated a pledge to create public sector worker co-operatives to enable staff to decide how the services they provide are run.
Shadow chancellor George Osborne said the co-operatives would enable public sector employees to take ownership of the services they provide and remove top-down bureaucracy.
He told the BBC: “We are saying to public sector workers: ‘If you want to, and only if you want to, you can create employee-led co-operatives and you can run state services, paid for by the taxpayer’.
“This is a power shift to public sector workers so that they take control of their own working environment and they get away from these top-down bureaucracies which have made life a misery for so many people in the public sector.”
Osborne denied suggestions that the introduction of such co-operatives would lead to a complete free-for-all.
He said: “The check on quality here is that they would be contracting services to the local authority or the National Health Service and they would be providing a contract, for community nursing or for primary education.
“But the essential principle that people in the public sector, whether they are community nursing teams, primary schools, job centres, would be able to take ownership of their own enterprise and run it as a non-for-profit social enterprise or co-operative providing state services is exactly what we are talking about.”
He added that the scheme would mean staff could effectively be able to remove their bosses.
“One would hope that in any organisation where the bosses had completely lost the confidence of the staff then one would look at the future of those bosses,” he said.
But Michael Stephenson, general secretary of the Co-operative Party, said: “George Osborne’s plan for employee-run public services fails to balance the needs of consumers, the public, with the interests of the public-sector workers themselves.”