From the TUC

A Future for Civil Society?

07 Feb 2011, by in Society & Welfare

So the “Big Society” is back on the rocks. 

A number of stories breaking in the press over the last week or so have demonstrated the increasing divide between David Cameron’s aspirations and the reality on the ground for the hard pressed community and voluntary organisations now bearing the brunt of his government’s massive cuts to local communities and services.

With such a harsh local government funding settlement this year (likely to be repeated next year and the year after), there were always going to be large scale casualties among those voluntary organisations that work with local authorities in delivering services to the community. 

Tomorrow sees the TUC open its doors to the voluntary sector, hosting an event in partnership with NAVCA bringing trade unions, community and voluntary organisations, charities and NGOs together to look at the impact the Government’s spending cuts and reforms are having on those organisations and the communities they serve.

The Government’s talk of localism and community empowerment is fatally undermined by the very cuts that impact most on the people and communities that are in most in need of those services.  So it is no wonder that councils like Liverpool have turned their back on the Big Society when they are being asked to do the impossible.

And now Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, outgoing head of CommunityService Volunteers has added her voice to those of the NCVO, NAVCA, and ACEVO in highlighting the decimation of community and voluntary services across the country.

There’s been some good blogs on this very issue, I particularly liked this list of 10 reasons why the Big Society concept was flawed, apparently written in response to a direct tweeted question by Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society.  I particularly liked points 2 and 3 as they really get to the core of the problem.  The Big Society is already out there, its the volunteers and organisations who already provide services in their communities.  But they are not an army of free volunteers ready to supply public services on the cheap.  Through commissioning and, yes, funding, there is a symbiotic relationship between local government and the voluntary sector.  The two add value to each other and it is through working together that they can deliver.

When the Government steps aside and withdraws funding, that space is not filled by willing volunteers.  That just will not happen.  To think otherwise is fantasy.  As is the idea that £100m of “transition funding” will bridge the estimated gap of £3 – £5 billion in voluntary sector funding that we can expect.

I, of course, don’t believe our Prime Minister or his Cabinet is full of fantasists.  But then the alternative would be to conclude that all this Big Society talk was just PR guff used to cover an agenda of cuts and further outsourcing of our public services.  Perish the thought.

The future looks bleak for our voluntary sector which makes it all the more important that a broad alliance is developed in response to the spending cuts.  Tomorrow’s event may well be a crucial step towards building those relationships.

4 Responses to A Future for Civil Society?

  1. Tweets that mention A Future for Civil Society? | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC —
    Feb 7th 2011, 10:12 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alex Burton-Keeble, Michael. Michael said: A Future for Civil Society? – ( via @touchstoneblog) […]

  2. Three questions about the dying Big Society | Liberal Conspiracy
    Feb 8th 2011, 3:42 pm

    […] questions about the dying Big Society by Chris Dillow     February 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm It looks as if the Big Society is dying on its arse. This raises three general […]

  3. Tacitus
    Feb 8th 2011, 4:25 pm

    The trouble with DWP is there is fundamentally no desire to allow those who are jobless the opportunity to take control of their own lives. Even the new job clubs (a Tory invention by any name) seeks to get people off the dole.

    Now with the demise of the Big Society these clubs are under threat and independent providers will soak up extra money from the government – but will they provide a service?

  4. Mel Kelly
    Feb 9th 2011, 11:05 am

    In December I undertook an investigation into the Trussell Trust (food vouchers for food parcels). After half an hour I was horrified to find a pattern of Coalition policies designed to hand funding and power to only “Charities” set up by Tory party members and Tory party policy writers.

    While this government’s cuts are starving NCVO member charities and other charities of funds the New Charities, set up by the Tory party to reform society are swimming in funds and government support and contracts (many of these charities are controlled by City Investment Bankers – once again another link to the Tory party and City Bankers!)

    I would be grateful if your organisation could carry out a thorough investigation of the charities with links to the Tory party and exactly what support and funding they are currently receiving as it would appear these cuts are designed to deliberately force the death of existing highly successful charities to replace them with Tory controlled “charities”.

    (If I can find the below information after a quick search, what would a thorough investigation reveal – in my opinion it looks like the Tory party intend to “reform” the voluntary sector by stealth).

    Below is the contents of the email I forwarded to every MP in the country, and as a result ministers are being questioned over the food vouchers for the Trussell Trust because of it).

    “The government is reducing public sector staff only to replace them with food vouchers, controlled by a Tory councillor who will decide what the poor eat if benefit payments are late (see the Trussell Trust food parcel contents attached – the contents of the parcel are disgusting).

    The Trussell Trust chairman of Trustees is Tory Councillor (and Mayor of Worthing) Noel Atkins,who recently left schoolchildren in tears when he and his wife, who were the children’s “special guests” both fell asleep during the children’s production of the musical play Bugsy.

    The Director of the Trussell Trust is Chris Mould, who splits his time between the Trussell Trust and The Shaftesbury Partnership, an organisation set up to introduce social reforms. Partners and team members of the Shaftesbury Partnership have co-authored flagship Tory Policies and set up and run Network Challenge (which is the organisation the Tory Party awarded the lions share of the contract for the first National Citizen Service Projects).

    It would appear, the Tories, over the past 15 years in opposition, have set up organisations and charities for the sole purpose of transferring control of services over to these organisations when they finally hold power to ensure they don’t need to be elected in the future. I would suggest their social reforms are designed to replace the welfare state and government departments with charities in their control. What sort of people are in place in these organisations with strong Tory Party links.

    The Shaftesbury partnership partners and Team Members include

    · Dominic Llewellyn – His political work has included co-authoring for the Conservatives what have now become the Coalition Government’s Big Society policies McKinsey & Co, financial services (Conservative party candidate in 2010 election)

    · Antony Hawkins – two years as a consultant at McKinsey & Co and worked in the Conservative Party Policy Unit and Implementation Team, where he co-wrote and planned the delivery of the Conservative’s Get Britain Working policy manifesto.

    · Craig Morley : Craig is Chief Executive and one of the co-founders of The Challenge Network. He joined following almost three years at Rio Tinto and seven years at Procter & Gamble where he held a variety of financial management and business development roles

    o The Challenge Network has been selected to be the largest provider for the first National Citizen Service projects. The charity is alongside 12 other voluntary sector groups including Catch 22, The Prince’s Trust and v.
    Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, said that more than 11,000 16-year-olds would benefit from the scheme next summer. In the future, the government wants every 16-year-old to have the chance to take part.


    o Challenge Network : Director Oliver Sparrow also a director of the Leadership Capacity Trust which states “Globalisation and economic development both generate sweeping change. Organic and stable development entails balance on three fronts, for whilst economic potential tends to be exploited quickly it must be supported by matching institutional and social adaptation if it is to be sustained.

    Fast economic growth dilutes existing sources of wealth generation very quickly: in ten years, perhaps half of all former pillars of the economy can expect to be superseded or replaced. Social change is, however, measured in near-generations, whilst institutional alterations are often slower still. The capacity – the training, the insight – that allows for purposeful adaptation in the public sector is often absent. “


    P Patrick Shine : Partner : worked for nearly 20 years in financial markets and investment management, specialising in global fixed income and derivatives, and was a director of Lazard Brothers Asset Management. He is chairman of The Challenge Network

    · Andrew Tanswell (Partner and co founder) he has an extensive management consultancy background at senior level with Ernst and Young and Coopers and Lybrand and has undertaken many, varied leadership roles at CEO and senior level

    · Nat Wei (Baron Wei of Shoreditch) – Honorary Founding Partner : Nat is a former McKinsey consultant with experience in both venture philanthropy and venture capital. Since his appointment in May 2010 as the Government Adviser on Big Society, Nat has stepped down from SP and become Honorary Founding Partner.”

    Mel Kelly (Irvine Ayrshire Scotland)