Jonathan Werran 14 December 2011

‘Big Society Minister’ needed to give clear policy steer

The Government’s flagship Big Society initiative lacks clarity and needs a clear implementation plan, a Parliamentary committee has warned.

Members of the Public Administration Select Committee said there is still a great deal of confusion about what the policy actually means and call on the Government to create a single ‘Big Society Minister’ to help Whitehall departments work through the agenda.

The MPs report, The Big Society, also calls for greater clarity on the roles of charitable, private and public providers of public services and urges ministers to outline how issues of accountability in terms of quality and regulatory powers will be managed in the Big Society project, and in particular accountability for public expenditure.

Committee chairman, Bernard Jenkin, said Big Society objectives, such as opening up public services to third sector providers, would not happen overnight.

‘To make a change of this magnitude successfully will take a generation,’ said Mr Jenkin. ‘It represents a whole new way of doing government.

‘However, so far, the government has not been clear enough about what the Big Society means in practical terms. There is a lot of confusion among the public and the new providers about how the Big Society policies are expected to work in practice,’ he added,

The chief executive of the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), Kevin Curley, said the committee had understood the problems local charities are facing over commissioning public services.

‘If the Big Society is to succeed, the Government must act in support of little society,’ said Mr Curley. ‘That means commissioning polices need to help local organisations, not just the big nationals.’

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