Posts Tagged: Nick Hurd

B****cks or knitting? You choose…

A cartoon by Steve Bell a while ago showed a masked robber in the Big Society Bank being told that they didn’t have any money as such – only bollocks. “Put the bollocks in a bag, and hurry,” says the robber.

The original of this cartoon was presented as a farewell gift yesterday to Nick Hurd, who resigned as minister for civil society in July, by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. Hurd was, of course, the apostle of social investment and one of his proudest achievements was the launch of the bank – actually called Big Society Capital – in 2012. Read more on B****cks or knitting? You choose……

First impressions of the new charities minister

Ask tricky questions, went the instructions at an event hosted by St John Ambulance on Wednesday, where I had my first opportunity to met Brooks Newmark, the new Minister for Civil Society. “But please be polite when you do.”

That instruction wasn’t for me, but the dozen young people present – St John Ambulance volunteers and Volunteer Police Cadets – two of the 14 youth groups benefitting from a new £10m pot of Libor fines, which Newmark was there to publicise. Read more on First impressions of the new charities minister…

Hurd leaves a long relationship

When Nick Hurd was introduced as the longest-serving charities minister
at a reception at the Institute of Fundraising convention last week, he muttered something enigmatic about how much longer it would last. Whether under pressure or otherwise, it seems likely he had already knew by then that he would be going. Read more on Hurd leaves a long relationship…

Battling on with the big society

People who do not read Third
Sector, or are unlikely to read the full contents of
the Giving White Paper, will be under the impression that yesterday David
Cameron’s slightly ambiguous big society concept was launched yet again.

Read more on Battling on with the big society…

Big society fatigue sets in

It’s been hard to get away from the big society in the last couple of weeks. All the papers – including the Sun – have been on about it, and every second programme on radio and TV has been trying to get a handle on it.

Read more on Big society fatigue sets in…

Hand-holding by the Office For Civil Society

The Office for Civil Society issued two short documents last week. There was a consultation about how it should take forward capacity-building in the sector, and a policy statement about building a stronger civil society.

Read more on Hand-holding by the Office For Civil Society…

Big society means big change ahead

Lord Wei, the government’s big society guru, weighed in recently with a warning that some charities and social enterprises had become too bureaucratic because they received most of their funding from the state. “They have ended up becoming big charity, not big society,” he said.

This chimes with Conservative arguments in recent years about the “Tescoisation” of charities, and with the party’s often-stated preference for local, community-based organisations. This government does not much like larger charities that get state funding, many of which are contemplating the future with some trepidation.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, responded by arguing in his lecture last week that “big society requires big charity as well as local charity. Properly speaking, big society means new life being breathed into the state-charity partnership.” He urged the government not to forget that the partnership between the state and the third sector is rooted in our history, has enjoyed cross-party consensus and is crucial to the well-being of society.

As we await the public spending review, it’s hard to predict in any detail what’s going to happen. The government is committed, as was Labour, to making it easier for the sector to bid for public contracts on a level playing field. That’s good in its way, if it actually happens, but public contracts are likely to be fewer and smaller, producing a countervailing effect.

The Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, also told Third Sector recently that the government was keen to open up public services to new providers. But he emphasised that it was interested in “community-based solutions.” That doesn’t sound encouraging for the bigger voluntary organisations.

The most that can be said with certainty is that the state is going to shrink, and with it many parts of the sector that depend on the state. And when such large cuts are made so fast, many babies will go out with the bathwater.

Read more on Big society means big change ahead…

It’s hard to see through the fog surrounding the future of the National Lottery

One of the most vexing issues on the voluntary sector landscape right now is the future of the National Lottery.

The government wants to reduce the amount of good causes money awarded by the Big Lottery Fund from 50 per cent to 40 per cent.

Considering that the BLF has given £3.6bn to mainly charitable projects since 2004, you might have expected this to be greeted with howls of protest.

But the sector’s response so far has been fairly muted because nobody knows quite what the impact will be.

Ministers claim charities will actually benefit. While the BLF’s slice of the cake will diminish, they say, the overall size of the cake will increase when Olympics-diverted funds return after 2012.

They are also proposing that all BLF funding goes to not-for-profit organisations. Currently, a minimum of 80 per cent must go to voluntary groups although the BLF says the actual figure is 92 per cent. The remainder goes to statutory projects, which under the last government led to allegations of ministers using the lottery to fund pet projects.

Ministers also point out that, although the proportion of lottery money going to the BLF will decrease, the proportion going to arts, heritage and sports distributors will increase and a good deal of this will go to charities.

It’s a persuasive argument, yet a sense of uneasiness remains. Last week Navca and the Directory of Social Change called on the overall amount of money going to local voluntary and community groups to be preserved.

When Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, was in opposition he was fond of using the phrase ‘smoke and mirrors’ to describe Labour’s policies and statements.

It’s hard to see through the fog of this one.

Read more on It’s hard to see through the fog surrounding the future of the National Lottery…

Quick, savage cuts may be good for the economy but they will damage the voluntary sector

A few weeks ago, Nick Hurd, the new minister for civil society, toured Paddington Development Trust, a charity that provides community services.

Afterwards he declared himself well satisfied. The trust, he said, was an “emblem of the big society in action”.

Barely a fortnight later Hurd’s colleagues in the Communities and Local Government department stepped in and made a decision which will take hundreds of thousands out of the trust’s £3.4m budget this year and much more in years to come. The trust fears it could eventually lose three quarters of its funding.

Read more on Quick, savage cuts may be good for the economy but they will damage the voluntary sector…

I’m willing to bet Nick Hurd a tenner the big society bank won’t open on time

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.

Read more on I’m willing to bet Nick Hurd a tenner the big society bank won’t open on time…