Nudge unit becomes a mutual

Written by Civil Service World on 5 February 2014 in News

Social investment charity Nesta has been named as the government’s chosen partner in the first mutual joint venture spun off from a Whitehall policy unit.

Nesta was selected from a shortlist of four to take a share of around a third in the Behavioural Insights Team, with the other two thirds owned by employees and by government.

BIT, also known as the Nudge Unit, aims to apply behavioural science to policymaking, and will now charge for its services to central government departments.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “As well as the savings that the government will make by transferring the unit out of the public sector, it also stands to take a share of any profits that BIT makes.”

The unit’s 16 staff will transfer under TUPE regulations to the new body, with the team’s director David Halpern becoming its chief executive.

Halpern said that BIT will recruit 6-12 more staff to meet expected demand. BIT employees will play a role in management through a trust, though Halpern said the precise mechanism has not yet been decided.
Officials have refused to confirm the amount paid by NESTA for its share in the new BIT, claiming that to do so could prejudice any future negotiations on similar deals.

In 2012, the government created an administrative mutual to run the civil service pension scheme, since when progress in spinning out public service mutuals has been slow.

Asked by CSW if he’s happy with the pace of progress, Maude said: “There has been a certain amount, but there is scope for much more.

“We are no longer in a world where the old binary choice between in-house profits and red-blooded outsourcing exists.”

Halpern will retain his role as head of the What Works network.

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