By politics.co.uk staff
Twelve groups of public sector staff will be 'pathfinders' for a scheme to set up employee-owned mutuals as part of the government's 'big society' drive.
Announcing the plans today, Cabinet secretary Francis Maude claimed the plans would unleash "pent-up" entrepreneurship among the lower rungs of the public sector - and lead to a huge cost saving.
Mr Maude said: "I know that across the country there are literally thousands of front line employees who can see how things can be done better, but at the moment, with the existing constraints, they just can't get it done. Now this is going to change.
"This is a Big Society approach, decentralising power so people can deal with the issues that concern them. We must not be afraid to do things differently if we are to provide better services for less money."
The 12 organisations include cooperatives made up of Whitehall staff, local authorities and further education colleges.
Each of these 'pathfinders' will be tasked with employing different business models to discover best practise to be spread to other areas of the public sector.
They will also receive expert advice from business 'mentors' including PWC and the John Lewis Partnership.
Charlie Mayfield, chairman of John Lewis, said the company was "delighted" to "support a new generation of public sector organisations exploring an employee-led approach".
The plans are being deliberately linked to the prime minister's big society narrative based on decentralisation of control away from Whitehall departments.
But critics argue that such schemes are designed to lend a positive aspect to the vast scaling back of the state announced in the spending review.