The Cabinet Office recently laid out clear goals in its structural reform plan for what it will achieve, and when.
The plan is a set of apparently cast-iron policy guarantees that the third sector can rely on.
It includes 14 measures to bring about the prophesied big society, which if they are kept will have largely transformed the third sector by the middle of next year.
The measures include initiatives to reduce bureaucracy for small charities by autumn, a fund for communities by Christmas, a new generation of community organisers in the new year, and a functional Big Society Bank before the chocolate eggs are opened on Easter morning.
Given the propensity of governments to miss targets by a country mile, the list appears to offers several substantial hostages to fortune. It would be amazing if all these targets were hit.
It is more likely that as pressure grows, resources are cut and deadlines approach, many of them will recede into the distance like the end of the rainbow.
One in particular which seems optimistic is the promise to set up a Big Society Bank in ten months.
It’s a great idea which really needs to happen, but before the first funds can be committed, a lot of infrastructure must be constructed – there are offices to be chosen, staff to be hired, innumerable legal hurdles to be overcome.
The money that is to be lent must also be extracted from the vaults of a group of recalcitrant banks that are noticeably short of cash.
The Big Society Bank is the first creation of its kind, a cutting-edge concept which could be the envy of the world. And because it is cutting edge, it will run into a huge number of unexpected hurdles which will need to be overcome on the way, and which have probably not been factored into this plan.
I’m willing to bet Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, a tenner that there will be no funds from the Big Society Bank available by April. I’m pretty confident my money’s safe – although it’s a bet I’d be happy to lose.
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