Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-100)
Q1 Chair: Welcome to
this evidence session of the Public Administration Select Committee,
our first public session on the topic of the Big Society.
I wonder if each of you could identify yourselves for the record,
I am Lord Glasman, Labour peer. I worked for 10 years with London
Citizens, and I think it is that experience that I bring to this
Chair: I think you will
need to speak up, as we do not have amplification in this room.
Polly Toynbee, from The Guardian.
Shaun Bailey: Shaun
Bailey, appointed by the Prime Minister as a Big Society Ambassador.
I am also the MD of a very small charity called My Generation.
Danny Kruger: I
am Danny Kruger. I run another charity called Only Connect.
We work with prisoners and exoffenders and young people
at risk of crime. Before that, I was working in Westminster
for the Conservative party.
Q2 Chair: First
of all, could each of you summarise concisely what you think the
Big Society means? Mr Kruger.
Thank you. The Big Society is an attempt by the Prime Minister
and the Conservative Party to articulate the need for a space
between the market and the state, a recognition of the importance
of families and communities and personal and social responsibility,
and it is an attempt to move beyond the purely economic idea of
what Conservatism stands for and to challenge the notion that
Government, mostly central Government, is the only agency that
can deliver public good. It is both an intellectual and
a policy agenda.
I am at a bit of a loss, to tell you the truth. I am not
entirely sure; I wait to hear and have it defined and to learn
more, and perhaps your Committee will clarify matters. My
worry is that it is a wonderful political phrase that nobody could
possibly disagree with: we all want society to be more engaged;
we want communities to be more engaged with one another; we all
are concerned about atomisation, alienation, people feeling isolated
and a sense of a lack of community. I think all political
parties have been struggling to find ways of bringing communities
together, and I expect that the Big Society is a part of that.
My worries about it, I suppose, are that it is happening at a
time of such severe cuts in the very things that do help communities
come together: cuts in the voluntary sector and particularly in
those small local charities that do so much and spring up from
the grass roots. It seems to me to be a rather top-down
initiative as we have it at the moment, and I worry that it is
a cloak for those cuts: to pretend that somehow people volunteering
without any help from any outside agency can fill the gaping gaps
left by some of the really severe cuts that are currently going
on in things people very much care about locallythings
that bring people together.
The Big Society is an attempt to get the country to share responsibility.
Currently we have a system that is predicated on massive central
government: 51% of our GDP. It is not sustainable; it generates
poverty in and of itself, and we are trying to use civic power
to address the gap between what people would like to be done and
what can be done by professional institutions. It is a way
of freeing up extra power without economy. It is a way of
changing mindsets from those at the very top to give of their
time and their money to the bottom, and it is also a way of showing
well-meaning but displaced people from poverty that some of turning
poverty around is counter-intuitive. Always giving with
no ask is not very useful when you try to stop a country and particular
parts of that country slipping into deep, long-term poverty.
Poverty is generational: we have given massive amounts of money
into it, more than ever before, we have a great big industry around
poverty, and it has achieved very little at all.
Q3 Chair: Just
something I would observe immediately, as Polly Toynbee says,
cuts in public spendingimplying that these are a bad thingyou
are immediately saying that 51% of GDP being spent by the state
is not necessarily a good thing.
Shaun Bailey: It
is not only not a good thing, it is unsustainable. At some
point we will run out of money. The argument says we have
already run out of moneythat is a different debatebut
the point being that spending that money in the way in which it
is spent has a social impact. The current centralised attack
on that situation has proved to be useless. It needs to
be turned around, and civic power is one of the most important
ways of addressing that problem.
I think I am going to echo most of what Danny said, stated a bit
more bluntly: I think there are four elements to the Big Society.
I think the first is directly party political: it is a very serious
attempt to detoxify the Tory brand and claim the mutualist, co-operative
traditions from Labour, depicting Labour as a statist party and
a bureaucratic party. So the first element is, I think,
a very explicitly political attempt to seize ground that Labour
vacated, particularly under Brown, and to present this Conservative
Party as something distinctly different to the Thatcher party,
so they can have the same economic policies but have a very different
approach to social policy.
I think the second aspect of the Big Society is a
genuine support for volunteerism, and to engage to try and organise
that, including aspects of leadership development. I think
the third aspect is a serious attempt to restructure public sector
provision along the lines of mutualism and to have greater local
engagement, and I think that the fourth one is a genuine attempt
to address aspects of powerlessness among citizens. I think
in some ways it does that in its approach to the public sector,
but it remains entirely silent on issues of private sector power,
and that is why it is so hard to pin down: it does not address
the main cause of people's powerlessness, which is their weakness
in the marketplace.
Q4 Paul Flynn:
If I give you a concrete example, perhaps you can tell me how
you react to it. Yesterday morning I was in my constituency,
where an announcement was made that 120 civil servants are going
to be thrown out of work by a Government decision. Now,
if you were to go along to them and say, "We have our salvation
here in the Big Society, because in future you can go out and
work for nothing," don't you think they would be tempted
to tell you where you can shove your Big Society?
The only caveat I would make is I will say it is not mine; I was
trying to depict where it sat. I think that there is a completely
legitimate space for discussing how to deliver public services.
There are two aspects, I would say. The first is on the
one side there is a transfer of power to the work force through
Q5 Paul Flynn:
With respect, we have always had that: that is going back to the
guild socialist, going back to what is centuries away. What
is different about the Big Society, except that it comes at a
time of unparalleled government cuts?
Lord Glasman: It
has been fatally damaged by certain ways that it has attacked
fundamental public vision, but I do not want to underestimate
the extent to which our provision, Labour provision of public
services, was perceived by many to be bureaucratic, inflexible.
It addresses a weakness in the way that we approached it.
Q6 Paul Flynn:
But is it not finished? When Prime Ministers have ideas
like the Cones Hotline, or Back To Basics, or the Third Way, someone
should say, "Emperor, you have no clothes"? There
is no question the idea has been explained, launched, relaunched
and rerelaunched, and the more people explain, the
less people understand. Isn't it over?
Lord Glasman: As
the rappers say: it ain't over. There are two aspects to
why it is not over. The first is the success of the branding
operation. At the last election, as you noticed, the Conservative
vote went up, and there is an element in which it does soften
the edges of the
Q7 Paul Flynn:
So it is a branding exercise? This is a way of selling Conservatism
from the nasty party to the nice party.
Lord Glasman: To
a nicer party.
Paul Flynn: Yeah; it could
not have been nastier, I don't think.
What I do not want to lose is the extent to which Labour lost
the guild socialist, Tawney, GDH Cole mutual provision and the
way that Labour treated the public sector work force.
Q8 Paul Flynn:
But as the idea is held in contempt by most charities, because
they see the cynicism and the cuts that accompany it, and not
held in much respect by the far right, the Daily Mail,
who see it as nannying, what hope has he got? At which point
does someone take the Prime Minister to one side and say, "Look,
forget about this. It cannot work. Give it up and
concentrate on something worthwhile"?
Many have taken him to one side and told him exactly that, and
what is interesting is that he perseveres with this.
Q9 Chair: Mr Bailey,
do you wish to comment?
The one thing I would say about those public sector workers is
they are a little bit more clued in, because they would ask the
question where did the money go in the first place, and clearly
with 13 years of Labour government, that is where the money went.
Q10 Paul Flynn:
I welcome you to come to Newport and explain it to them, Mr Bailey,
and I am sure they will give you an interesting answer.
The thing about public services and the size of them, and people
being laid off or not, is that many people in the Labour party
have stated they would not do the Big Society, but they have stated
they would do the cuts. Your leadership has said as much.
My point being that the cuts and the Big Society are entirely
Q11 Paul Flynn:
You speak as a Conservative candidate, do you?
Absolutely, I make no bones about that, but you made a party political
point. My point is that your leadership said that it would
do the cuts and it would not do the Big Society. The cuts and
the Big Society are separate.
Q12 Robert Halfon:
Just to declare one thing that I should have told the Committee,
I am actually a good friend of Mr Kruger, having very much attended
the Big Society Wedding a couple of years ago. Miss Toynbee,
you implied that the Big Society is just about volunteering, but
is it not much more than that? Philosophically it says that
social capitalthe glue that binds communities togetheris
as important as economic capital. It also says that people
power, i.e. giving people the chance to run things and control
things, is as importantif not more importantthan
state power, and that is much more than just saying that we want
to give a little bit of a boost to volunteers.
I agree: that is a statement of fact. But how do you create
it? How do you make it happen? It does not sound like
a policy; what you are saying just sounds like an observation.
What I want to know is how you then create it, how you make it
happen. I think there is a great deal of evidenceI
very much hope this Committee will call on the huge amount of
evidence there isabout what works. This is not year
zero: you are not starting from nowhere saying, "I know,
let's try to encourage a bit of community activism here."
A lot is known. There are problems about volunteering, in
the sense that it happens very much more in prosperous areas than
in poor areas with very little social capital. Where people
are poorest there is least social capital and the least trust
between people, and in the places that most need it, it is hardest
to generate that kind of community.
But there have been, over the Labour eraand
you should not ignore the enormous amount of evaluation and information
that was learnt in that time because it happened to be under the
Labour erasome extremely good programmes that worked very
well, or worked to varying degrees. They were evaluated
in ways that you could see what worked, what did not, where money
was wasted and where it was well spent. I would particularly
point you to the New Deal for Communities, which was a mega-pilot
experiment in 39 areas, given money for 10 years so they knew
it would be there for the whole time. On the Sheffield Hallam
website there are all the evaluations, and you can see exactly
what worked and what did not within that, but it concentrated
on the very worst estates and the very worst areas in the country.
It used a whole lot of different methods for trying to get the
community together, and it was incredibly difficult for the people
who tried to get together very fractured, very fractious local
communities to decide themselves what they wanted to do and to
work together in committees. There were rows and troubles,
and some of them fell apart at the beginning and had to be reconstituted,
but in that evidence there is, I think, an extraordinary wealth
of stats for what a Government should do. It does not necessarily
have to cost as much as that cost; there were things in there
that did not cost all that much, but all of it required some professional
help. It required people with experience who know how to
galvanise that and to make it happen. The idea that it could
all be for free and it is just about volunteering is mistakenit
is about how you draw it together.
Q13 Robert Halfon:
That is not the idea.
You mean the idea is that it should not be like that.
Q14 Chair: Let's
just agree at the outset that there is a tendency within Westminster
politics to trash the other side, to undervalue what the other
side has achieved, or we could have a very adversarial and unconstructive
session. I would also suggest that we have to get over this
question of public spending. Is it possible to run a Big
Society agenda at the same time as reducing public spending?
Shaun Bailey: Absolutely.
Q15 Chair: Because,
Miss Toynbee, you seem to be saying that the Big Society is a
joke because the Government have to cut public spending as though
there was another option, when we know there is not another option.
There are options about how much you cut and what you cut.
Q16 Chair: How
much should we cut, then?
Are we going to have a debate about economics?
Q17 Chair: That
is what I want to avoidthat is the point.
Absolutely. I rather deliberately did not take up Shaun's points
because I thought they would lead us into economics. All
right, you are going to cut some, and we do not necessarily need
a debate here about how much. What I wanted to say is that
it is not free. You get what you pay for in community organising
to some degree, and do not imagine that this is somehow a way
of reconstituting society because you have not got the money any
Q18 Chair: In
fact, public spending is still rising in real terms, but that
is another matter.
If you want to go into the economy, that is because we are in
a death spiral where growth is flatlining. If the
economy were growing, we would not be
Chair: Actually, the economy
is growing, but that is another matter. But we can get past
this lump in the argument that, just because public spending has
to be contained, you cannot talk about gluing communities together,
improving a sense of community across the country. Let us learn
from what the previous Labour Government did, but let's also learn
from their mistakes.
Q19 Robert Halfon:
Just to come in on that, you may disagree with the measures, but
if the argument is that the Big Society says that people power
is more important than state power, or as important, the measures
of some of the things that the Government are doing on health,
education, free schools, academies, police commissioners, more
co-operativesand you may disagree with how that is doneis
all about putting people in charge. You may say that the
results will not achieve that, but that is the idea of itthat
people power is as important as state power.
Q20 Chair: Yes,
Miss Toynbee, why is this a joke? Why does this make it
It does not make it a joke.
Q21 Chair: You
have described it as a joke.
That is not about volunteering; that is a real, substantive policy.
The question about communities, which Maurice Glasman is much
better to answer than I am, is that communities are often in conflict
about things. To simply say, "We give free schools
to the people," a lot of people in those same communities
may be saying, "We do not want a free school down here,"
but Michael Gove up there says, "Yes, you can have one because
that little group wants one," but maybe, I do not know, maybe
a whole lot of other people in the area say, "No, it is going
to destabilise our school system."
Q22 Robert Halfon:
But then they do not have to go to the free school; they can go
to a state school.
No, but their own schools get destabilised.
Q23 Robert Halfon:
They do not. Why?
Well, they may well feel that those schools are creaming off a
whole lot of children; they are also creaming off money from the
state schools. I am not making a point about whether free
schools are good or not; I am making a point about communities
not being one thing. There will be arguments and disputes
all the time between people who want to do this and people who
want to do that, and the idea that giving power to community from
on high to anybody who happens to call themselves community in
any one area necessarily generates community spirit is quite a
Robert Halfon: It is not
going to work like that, because free schools will only work in
a community if parents want it.
Q24 Chair: But
is this not really an argument about diversity of provision against
equality? Which is the more important value: equality or
diversity of provision and opportunity? Is that not one
of the big political divides in politics?
It is going to be a lot messier under this arrangement, that is
certainly true, and there will be inequity and failure, and some
of the current institutions will suffer, and those might include
good institutions, so it is not a panacea, but it is predicated
on the idea that it is not within the power of politicians to
come up with a panacea, or indeed anybody. The hopeand
I share this hope and believe in itis that overall, if
we are concerned with equality and equity and fairness, overall
we will have a fairer outcome, even though there will be messiness
on the ground.
Can I just respond to the point about cuts briefly?
The fact is that Government spending is falling, and the fact
is that the implication of that is that the state is retreating
to one of its core purposes and remits. I see that in the
work I do in prisons and communities in the fight against crime.
Prison rehabilitation services are reducing in a lot of prisons,
so a restorative justice project that I know well has lost its
funding in London prisons. Prisons are becoming warehouses
for incarceration once again. Whether we approve of that
or not, that is their primary function, and in a reduced public
spending envelope that is what they are going to be. Police
services are losing the money that they spend on crime prevention,
and are therefore necessarily becoming about detecting and catching
criminals once again. We are returning to a core idea of
the state as being there to react to problems as they occur.
I do not think that is a bad thing in many ways, because I think
the state is always going to be bad at the long-term, relational,
often emotional social work of, for instance, reducing reoffending
by exoffenders or preventing crime among young people.
That is properly the work of social organisations like Shaun's
and mine, and it should not be the remit of Government to try
to impose that. The police are bad at crime prevention,
prisons are bad at reducing reoffending or getting people
off drugs. Third-sector organisations are better at that.
But in a lot of areas they do not exist, and particularly in some
of the neediest areas with the least social capital there is the
least of that around.
Shaun Bailey: That
is easiest to fix. It is very easy to sit outside of a poor
community and tell that poor community what it wants, and then
go into that poor community and tell them what they need, and
they will respond to you because you have a much more powerful
education and you are better at elaborating on a problem.
The key thing about poverty and poor people is that poverty is
as much about mindset as it is about money. If you give
poor people lots of money, they buy things, and not always what
they need; they buy what they want.
One of the biggest things about poverty is this:
firstly, it is a generational change. It takes a generation
to march a community out of poverty. Secondly, people have
to be involved in their own redemption to learn the lessons.
You cannot come from a poor community, have things done for you
and then teach your children what was done for you. You
need to have experience, your children need to see you experience
those things go forward. It is why unemployment becomes
generational. If your children do not see you work, they
do not experience the value and the social capital from working.
They need to see you; they need to hear about your working.
You need to be involved in that. Where I come from nobody
runs anything, so they do not try to run anything.
The whole point about the Big Society projectand
here is where Polly's point is slightly wrongis that it
is not about abandoning the public to themselves. We have
a system of councils in this country, much closer to communities
than central Government, and they are to administer this in myriad
ways, as they see fit, because they are far better than central
Government because they are closer. That is at least the
technical idea: they are closer and they have a better idea.
In areas, Polly, where there is the least social capitalthis
is where I do agreein the areas where people need to volunteer
and learn the most, that is where you give the council and social
organisations more resource as well as money to pick that up and
pay them the respect to let them know it will take time.
I also agree, Polly, with your 10-year projects; it is not a two-minute
thing. It is 10, 15 to 20 years.
Q25 Nick de Bois:
A question first for Polly Toynbee, if I may. Do you not think
you demonstrate an extraordinary arrogance when you seem to dismiss
the ability of communities to decide what they want, and seem
to believe it is the state that knows best, particularly after
What I have just said about the NDC is that the whole point was
that it was so difficult to give money to the communities themselves
to form their own committeesthe main committee and then
lots of othersand bring them in. You really need
to look at this and how it was done. It was entirely about
local empowerment, and it was very scary. The Treasury and everybody
thought, "What do you mean giving money to the local community
in the very places where there is the least trust?"
It can be done. All right, it does not necessarily have
to be done at that cost or in that way, except that the fact that
there was money was what drew people to trust enough to believe
and join and give a huge amount of their time and effort.
Absolutely heroic local champions were created and
came forward because they could see that this was not going to
be a talking shop and something was going to come of this.
They had control, and if they wanted outside professionals they
hired them. They chose who they thought they neededsomebody
to do x, perhaps to help with a particular employment programme
on a local estate or whatever it was they wanted on their estate.
There is no point in doing it if it does not have buy-in because
the process itself is part of the outcome: the process of getting
people involved, letting them take control and make their own
decisions, is part of the outcome of what makes that place better
for everybody to live in.
Q26 Chair: It
sounds like you should be a Big Society Ambassador.
I never said the Big Society as a concept was a bad idea.
If I called it a joke, I meant in terms of on the one hand Cameron
saying, "Here is the Big Society", and the other hand
saying, "By the way, I am cutting all money for things like
TimeBank," which has mobilised 300,000 volunteers, and for
all sorts of charities and voluntary organisations really dug
in on the ground." All of you as MPs must be seeing
it in your patchlosing funds that are doing exactly what
the Big Society should do. So the joke is not that it is
a bad idea but that you are not giving anything with one hand;
you are talking with one hand and taking the money away with the
Chair: That is the dilemma
we are in.
Q27 Nick de Bois:
Mr Kruger, I have a note that you described the Big Society asI
hope I have this right"too abstract and granular for
our politics". Is that a fatal flaw for the policy?
Danny Kruger: What
we are encountering is the failure of that term to get a lot of
traction in terms of comprehension. When I said "too
abstract and too granular", it is opposite problems.
On one level it is very abstractit is an airyfairy
conceptand on the other it is too granular: it is about
parks and post offices and pubs. It is not at the sort of
scale that we normally talk at in political terms, like NHS, or
schools or whatever. It is very up there, but also incredibly
The fact is it is very difficult to communicate new
thinking. It is a huge concept: it is a policy agenda, it
is a philosophy. In many ways it is not even new, because
this is traditional Conservatism to my mind. It also has
deep roots in the Labour movement, and they can and do claim part
of it. So I think, as a PR exercise, it was never going
to be successful: we saw that in the general election when it
was the main theme of the Tory campaign and it did not really
go down well on the doorstep. Yet the media, who were looking
for some other way of identifying and defining what this Government
stand for, rather than just the deficit reduction agenda, naturally
looked at this, and they were right to do so because David Cameron
is absolutely passionate about it. He was saying again yesterday
that he has not been put off by people saying it is dead and no
one understands it. As to the idea that he has relaunched
it four times, as we all know it takes 100 times before these
things enter the public mind. He is going to relaunch
and relaunch it. It is more about whether it will
work; whether stuff happens on the ground. I think this
goes with the grain of human nature, this is what people want,
and the polls show that people do not understand it. I think
they do understand it; they just do not like it coming from politicians.
They do not like the sense of it being a top-down agenda.
Q28 Nick de Bois:
Do you think that it is going to take evidence on the ground for
it to get momentum, for it to be understood, and how critical
is it that it is understood? Perhaps it is more that it
has a slow growth.
I think that is right, and I think in four years' time at the
next election David Cameron will be going round saying, "Here
is the Big Society, here is the Big Society, here is the Big Society."
Q29 Nick de Bois:
What did you mean by, "It needs a revolutionary leader to
succeed"? Are we talking Che Guevara in the Cabinet
Thank you for digging out my old articles. I think there
was a time when it looked like David Cameron might be slightly
wimping out on the Big Society. He has recovered his courage
on it and is promoting it very vigorously. I do think that,
although it is essentially a bottom-up movementit is an
antipolitics movement; it is saying that central Government
is not the answernevertheless there is a role for the state
as the leader of our country and as a cultural promoter of the
good and the true and the just, and that is what the Prime Minister
should be doing, and I think he does. I think he speaks
Chair: Lord Glasman, do
you want to chip in there? No; okay.
Q30 Paul Flynn:
I think we all greatly admire your work, Mr Kruger, but the reality
is that on the question of recidivism, of drugs in prison, there
has been no progress in 40 years, and we have a Home Secretary
now who does want to have revolutionary change. The history
has proved that Home Secretaries caught in possession of intelligent
ideas have brief ministerial careers. Do you really think
that someone with all the baggage of the Tory party over the years
can come in? They do believe that they are in year zero, they
do believe they are Maoist, and they are getting all the top jobsthe
ombudsman, the chairman of the Statistics Authority; all on one
salary. The blue dungarees are coming in next, I think,
but they do believe they are Maoist, they have selfconfessed
it, and they are going to make these changes. It might well
happen. It does not work with some people, not everyone
is on the same salary as the Prime Minister, but there is a positive
move to be made. Can you really see the Big Society, tattered
and torn as it is, having any effect?
You are talking about Ken Clarke, the Justice Secretary?
Paul Flynn: I was, yes,
talking about Kenneth Clarke.
It is hard to think of him as a Maoist.
Paul Flynn: An admirable
Yes, and I think that he is trying to do the right thing.
If you are asking whether he is going to stay in his job, I have
no idea. I would have thought so and I would hope so. I
think he has the right agenda there. I do not think we should
underestimate that we are talking about politics and personalities.
The courage and resolution of David Cameron on this one means
he is going to keep on pushing at it, and I think that Ken Clarke
is going to stay in his job for, I hope, another year or two and
implement this revolution.
Lord Glasman: I
just want to come in here. For a start, there is no movement
out there. I just want to knock that one completely on the
Q31 Chair: Movement?
As in a great movement for the Big Society, a social movement.
That is not happening. Secondly, there is a senseyou
are talking about repeating itof a lack of seriousness
in this, and the lack of seriousness can be told in the story
of what happened with the bid for the Institute for Community
Organising. That is something I was directly involved in,
so I can share it with you.
About a year and a half ago at London Citizensmaybe
more now, maybe two years agosuddenly Steve Hilton and
David Cameron would appear at our offices on quite a regular basis,
and they were talking about power to the people. The important
thing about London Citizens isand I do not particularly
want to get into this debate herewe never took Government
money. That was so that people could have their own agenda.
The problem with the New Deal was that it was state-sponsored
society, and when the money was withdrawn there was a great lack
of energy. Often the community bodies disintegrated.
The problem was a lack of ownership and a lack of leadership development
in poor communities, Shaun. That was absolutely the issue.
Q32 Chair: So
the New Deal for Communities had some problems?
Definitely. We work on a community organising, not community development,
model. A community development model brings in outside experts
to give advice. It is very much a Toynbee Hall model, and
community organising tries to develop leaders from within the
communities themselves. That is the whole story. What
happened here is that we were told that there was going to be
an Institute for Community Organising with £30 million
and a curriculum to develop local leaders, and if you can give
me just two minutes to tell you the background to community organising
just for a moment, it is vital.
Chair: As quickly as you
Lord Glasman: I
will be quick. Basically, it started off in Chicago in the
1930s with a guy called Saul Alinsky. The idea was that
poor, local, demoralised communities would generate power, build
relationships, and be able to act in Mayor Daley's Chicago, where
they were completely cut out. This was mainly eastern Europeans
rebelling against the Irish domination. That was the story.
The thing they organised against was something called settlement
houses: Toynbee Hall is a settlement house. The settlement
houses were patrician-endowed places that basically educated poor
people not to enjoy sex at all, really, but certainly not before
a certain age, and to eat healthier food. It was a paternalistic
improving body. What community organising began with was
to take that house, the settlement house, and turn it into a community
house that was run by the community. It was a complete power
struggle, perhaps the difference between community development
and community organising.
Can I just say that NDC is not in the settlement? I agree
with everything you say about the settlement tradition, but it
is a bit unfair, and we might come back to that, to say that NDC
is in that tradition.
I agree, I just want to go back to this story and we can come
to that later. That is a different discussion, you are right.
The point I am trying to make here is that community organising
is based on building relationships, action and power: giving local
communities power through their own leadership and setting their
own agenda. What is really significant here is that the
bid for the Institute for Community Organising said that they
wanted to endow an institutethis is a direct quote from
the bid"on the principles of Saul Alinsky".
That is a far out thing for a Conservative Government to say that
they want to do, but it is true that they did that, and then they
gave it to the settlement houses. They gave it to the locality,
they gave it to the paternalist "eat your vegetables, don't
smoke, don't swear"it was the completely worst side
of Tory voluntarism, which was basically, "Aren't I doing
a wonderful thing helping you, you ignorant poor person who needs
my guidance and love."
What I am saying isDanny, this is the crucial
thingthat that was a deeply unserious move. Locality
has no experience of developing leaders from ethnic minorities,
poor communities, working class communities; they are very well
intentioned busybodies. That is what they have always been.
What we have here then is a commitment to an Alinsky-based community
empowerment that turns out to be a paternalist based "eat
your greens" kind of movement, and this is what I am just
trying to relay, Shaun: this is the lack of seriousness in the
move. There is not a commitment to develop local power by
local people through their institutions and organisations that
would lead to genuine conflict. That is what it has to be
with this. The thing that is missing here is the granular
conflict, where people hold unresponsive local authorities to
account, but above all, when you talk to the people and you organise
peoplethis is just my experience of life that I am sharing
with youthey always come back to four issues. Those issues
are: I do not like the way I am being treated at work; I do not
like violence on the streets; I really need somewhere bigger to
live; and I am paying too much interest on my money. Those
issues come up again and again.
These are fundamental issues. The one thing
is, before we get into a brandingto Mr de Boisbefore
we repeat it more and more often, I just wanted to share that,
if you look at my stuff two years, a year ago, I wrote really
positively about the Big Society in terms of Labour engagement,
but now I perceive that there is no intention to take on market
power, there is no intention to bring on genuine leadership from
outside the usual places, and there is a stresswhich is
wonderfulon volunteerism, but there is not a stress on
building the relationships and the institutions in those places
that could generate a more powerful society, and that is the nature
of the disenchantment.
Q33 Chair: This
is turning into an extremely interesting conversation. I
want to let it run rather than for us to be overly preoccupied
with our own questions, but I shall just interject one point.
This sounds awfully like the problem we have with IT procurementwe
are doing an inquiry into IT procurementor defence procurement,
or the way the Civil Service operates generally; this is a skills
problem at the heart of Government, and this Government may well
be having the same difficulties and the same problems that Tony
Blair and Gordon Brown had in trying to generate this kind of
I am afraid I think this was a political decision, because during
the election campaign Cameron was out with London Citizens.
He went to their meeting and spoke at their meeting. He
knew exactly what London Citizens wanted to see, he felt he knew
exactly what it was, and when it came to the decision it was not
an administrative errorgetting the wrong IT for the wrong
companyit was drawing back, saying, "I cannot be doing
with this because it is too authentic, it is too real, and it
is quite scary." London Citizens does scare the hell
out of politiciansit used to scare the hell out of Labour.
Lord Glasman: And
And journalistsnot me.
Q34 Chair: But
are London Citizens on the streets campaigning against the cuts?
They will be.
Lord Glasman: No,
I just want to clarify that. No, London Citizens will not
campaign against the cuts because there is a streak in London
Citizens that is very hostile to a lot of what is perceived as
the humiliation involved in a lot of public sector provision and
is in favour of the redistribution of power to local communities
in terms of accountability. What they do is always in a
positive campaign: living wage is the classic examplepaying
people enough to work.
Q35 Robert Halfon:
I am fascinated by what you are saying. I understand where
you are coming from, but I do not agree with the outcome of what
you have said. I agree that the Big Society should not be
paternalist, and I have argued that, for the Big Society to work,
it has to support the little society.
Lord Glasman: Sure,
but what do you not agree with?
Q36 Robert Halfon:
You are saying that the way the Big Society is working from Government
is paternalist and centralist, and your particular organisation
did not get the grant from the Government. If you look at what
the Government are doing in terms of schools, education and health,
policing and so on, that is actually putting power into the hands
of ordinary people, and giving them the decision and making them
Making who community organisers?
Robert Halfon: If
you are setting up a free school, that means you are a community
Lord Glasman: Mr
Halfon, everything in this depended on a programme that could
trainbecause it is a craft, it is a skilllocal leaders
from outside the mainstream who could carry people with them to
challenge prevailing distributions of power, and build new institutions.
To call it community organising now is just false. The training
programme with Locality calls itself a community organising programme,
but this is the worst aspect of rebranding. It does
not have a curriculum that develops relationships; it does not
develop the actions in the reaction inside the experience of your
people. Community organising is a specific practice that
we thought was going to characterise the Big Society, but it does
Q37 Robert Halfon:
It is your definition of community organising.
Lord Glasman: No,
this is not some kind of post-modern
Robert Halfon: It is.
Your definition of community organising is not the only definition
of community organising.
Just let me share my expertise. I need to clarify this;
this is huge.
Chair: I think we can
get too bogged down here.
No, it is vital, because community organising is about leadership
development, relationship, power, action. Community developmentwhich
I think is where we have got to hereis not about developing
those relationships and powers that would take on what the community
wishes it to take on. If you look at the curriculum of that,
they are developingit is development, not organising.
Q38 Chair: There
is clearly a very important point about London Citizens.
Do feel free to put in a supplementary note to us on this so we
properly understand it, but I do not think you can go into the
detail of one organisation now. Forgive me, it is part of
the problem with the subject. Mr Kruger, you wanted to come
Just very briefly, I am very struck by what Maurice has said,
and I think that there is a problem if the Big Society, or the
Government generally, does not acknowledge issues around power.
I also agree that issues around private sector power have been
neglected because within the Conservative movement there is a
conflict there. But it is a natural conflict; it is a conflict
within the human heart.
It is great to hear that there is a conflict.
It is a natural tension, and a fruitful one, between the spirit
of freedom and enterprise we each carry, and the desire to belong.
Q39 Nick de Bois:
Mr Bailey, I think two Big Society Ambassadors have been appointed,
of which you are one. Can you start by answering the question
why does the Big Society need an Ambassador, in your opinion?
Two things: one is to help spread the message and help develop
the movement. Lord Glasman is completely wrong; there is
a massive movement around this. If you look at the Big Society
network, it is effective and connected to hundreds and thousands
of people in a way that I never imagined could be done.
Secondlyagain referring to Lord Glasman's partis
to bring some of the reality into the room, because you all here
in the Westminster bubble are breathing a different type of oxygen
to what we are breathing. I use poor English specifically to make
my point. I am in there making points that they might not
quite be aware of, and there is a big conversation going on now
about commercial power. I am currently engaged in developing
a paperI am writing about that nowfor the eyes of
the Prime Minister, to say that the Big Society has got thus far,
and to get further we need to addresswhich is the single
biggest point at this pointcommercial power. The
need for an Ambassador is to keep people honest.
Can you explain what you mean by commercial power?
Q40 Chair: So
that commercial power is about the relationship between the state
and big business?
Can you give us some examples?
Shaun Bailey: I
will give you some specific examples. I am going to talk
about the concept. If you are going to give all this power
over, we are where we are, and we have particular mechanisms to
give power over, so I am basically talking about secondment, big
tendering, all the rest of that.
Q41 Chair: Serco.
Yes; so commercial organisations are set up to benefit from that
massively. For instance, the likes of Serco have legal departments
bigger than most charities. For that to work and be fair
and generate some of the change that the Prime Minister is after,
certain breaks, certain understandings would have to be encapsulated
in the law and also in the guidance around that. For instance,
we are having conversations about, if an employee mutual wins
a contract, we are trying to encourage
Q42 Chair: We
are going to come on to all this, but we get the gist, that you
are injecting a different philosophy into the heart of Government.
Q43 Nick de Bois:
So your role as an Ambassador is more about arguing from outside
of Westminster into Government, but to achieve what? To
get Government to shout louder, to do more, to change things,
or is it just to inform?
It is from outside in, it is trying to achieve parity for the
small guy, because I come from there in all kinds of ways of measuring
that point. It is also to keep them alive to what is happening
on the ground: again, the taste of your oxygen is different to
ours. It is about letting people know that the Prime Minister
does not think this is a new idea, he does not think it is his
idea, he thinks it is a public idea, and a big role for me is
to try to depoliticise it slightly. One of the problems
we are having is that we are childish with everything in this
country. It has been said in this room that we cannot have
a conversation without the left or the right jumping on it.
I am personally of the opinion that this needs to bigger than
our left and right politics, because it is aboutfor methe
poorer, smaller, damaged communities gaining some traction in
Q44 Paul Flynn:
I am grateful, Mr Bailey, for explaining to me that there are
such things as councils. I am aware of it; I did sit on
one for 25 years before I came here. Do you regard your
own organisation as an example for other Big Society organisations
No, not at all. What my organisation and I do has very little
to do with what the Big Society does in relation to me as an employee.
I do those things, I have been doing them for years; I hope to
continue to do them for years.
Q45 Paul Flynn:
Could you answer some of the criticisms that have been made about
the way you run your organisation?
Q46 Paul Flynn:
Okay, well, it has been claimed that 35 pence in the pound is
spent on publicity, and 20 pence in the pound on activities, and
this went up greatly during your period as a parliamentary candidate.
What is the explanation for that?
On a point of order, Mr Jenkin. I think this line of questioning
has nothing to do with the inquiry about the Big Society.
Paul Flynn: It has everything
to do with establishing the credentials of the ambassador.
It is a political attempt to undermine a witness, and I think
it is totally out of order. I think it is a disgraceful
line of questioning.
Chair: The question has
been asked; I am anxious not to get bogged down into this line
of questioning, but I would like to give Mr Bailey the opportunity
to answer the point that has been made.
All of those claims came from a very belligerent, badly behaved
Labour MP. He spoke about things and those figures talk about
things that people like he and you do not fully understand.
Chair: Please let Mr Bailey
Hold on. We run a tiny, small organisation. It had
to get itself off the floor, and those things there were accounted
for badly. So things were put in different columns. People
said, "What is activity?" For instance, you are
talking about things like all the travelling and stuff.
Now, they did our accounts as though that was our staff travel.
Actually, I think at that point it was over 400 children up and
down the country travelling. That is where all that come from,
and the detail of what went on, if people bothered to look rather
than make a political attack about what we do, they would be happy
about what we do. That particular MP should really ask himself
how come I am connected with so many people from his constituency
and he is not.
Q47 Paul Flynn:
Were you investigated by the Charity Commission for the loss of
Chair: That seems to be
Mr Speaker, this is an outrageous line of questioning.
Chair: Order, order.
Shaun Bailey: You
show me where we
This is a disgraceful abuse of the Select Committee. A disgraceful
Q48 Chair: Order,
order. This is not the right forum to crossexamine
the conduct of an individual charity. I have allowed Mr
Bailey to answer your question, Mr Flynn. I think we should
move on, and the fact that this matter has been investigated by
the Charity Commission means that it is not
We have not had the answer, I am afraid, Mr Chairman, as to whether
it was or not.
We absolutely were not. I answered that. We never
were and never have been under investigation by the Charity Commission.
Q49 Chair: Order,
order. Mr Bailey, we are going to move on.
Thank you very much.
Chair: We will move on
to questions about whether the Big Society is a new idea.
Q50 Greg Mulholland:
Thank you Chair. I do not know about the Big Society, but
we certainly do not have much of a big tent going on here this
morning. I would just, first of all, say, I think this debate
between left and right is not particularly helpful in the context
of thisI would say that as Liberal, which, of course, as
everyone knows, is the real tradition of community politics, decentralisation
and empowerment. But at a recent Big Society conference
that I was asked to speak at, I was hearing the debate about whether
the Big Society is a genuine concept and whether it is a good
idea, and so on, but I said that part of the point of the Big
Society is clearly what people do with it. In a way you
might say that that is political genius, because the Prime Minister
could say if it does not work, "It is not my fault and it
is not the Government's fault, because the communities did not
take up the idea, so you cannot blame the politicians." But
on a serious point, the one question that does not seem to have
been asked, never mind answered, is how will the Big Society be
judged? What is the outcome of the Big Society? In
four years' time or 10 years' time, whatever, how will we judge
whether the Big Society is going to be a success or not?
Some of the bigger pieces of work about the Big Society are changes
in the law, so some of them are going to be easy to judge: what
quality is the public provision around health, around schools?
Is it better, is there more of it, are communities more involved
in it? That part will be easier to measure, and we will
have something to measure it againstwhat went before.
There is also what we want for the future: the number of charter
schools, the number of mutuals, doing anything from youth work
to health provision. In one sense, that can be measured.
The other part is it always going to be hard to measure,
and that is the point, because it is about people, it is about
happiness, it is about fulfilment, it is about involvement, and
that will always be complicated and hard to measure, but that
is the problem. We have come from a system where everybody wants
measurement, and I get that, particularly with public money, but
that measurement has often stopped us taking the extra step, going
the extra mile. It is why the third sector has always been
able to fill that gap, because what it perceives as important
and how it measures success is slightly different. If we
are going to do anything in changing our mindsets we may have
to go for a slightly murkier view of what success is, because
some of what a community needs and an individual needs cannot
be fitted in a box and then ticked alongside.
Q51 Lindsay Roy:
How will we know?
There is one big mechanism called a general election, which will
let people know to a certain extent. But people will continually
Q52 Lindsay Roy:
Will the next general election be around the Big Society?
Is that what you are saying?
Shaun Bailey: If
it is anything to do with the Prime Minister, yes. That
is what he said; it is not what I said. He said this is
what he wants to do and is doing as a Prime Minister.
Q53 Lindsay Roy:
I am afraid just because you repeat the same thing four or five
times does not mean to say it is right.
Put it this way: if you are not in favour of the Big Society,
and you have the opportunity to vote in the next general election,
where would you put that mark?
Q54 Lindsay Roy:
I am in favour of the Big Society.
I do not mean you as an individual; if an individual is not in
favour of the Big Society, at the general election they have somewhere
to put that mark.
Q55 Lindsay Roy:
I am in favour of a better society.
Exactly, and that is the whole plan. My point is that people
have an opportunityseveral opportunitiesthrough
localism, through getting involved or not, or through how they
Q56 Greg Mulholland:
Chairman, I am keen to hear answers from all the witnesses on
that particular question, so if we could get Lord Glasman.
Chair: In one sentence,
what will be the mark of success?
Lord Glasman: I
think it has to be judged against three criteria: power, politics,
and participation. If you had leaders coming through from
new, different places that would be a very good thing, and if
there was greater engagement in politics and participation of
citizens in the power over their lives. I think these things
can be measured. I think they should not be measured according
to how happy people feel, how meaningful their lives. I think
it is about power, leadership development and participation, and
you should just check it and check definitely the class and community
backgrounds of people.
I agree, and everybody keeps saying 'it'; we still do not know
what "it" is. It does not have borders or definitions.
Q57 Chair: It
is very local as well, isn't it?
When you throw in the NHS and schools you might as well pack up
and go home, because if everything that happens moves or breathes
in the whole country it is going to be incredibly hard to decide
whether there has been an "it" at all. There may
have been something going on in health, better or worse, or something
going on in schools, better or worse. It seems to me that
this Committee needs to draw up some kind of parameters that makes
it possible to measure it afterwards. I hate to go back
to New Deal for Communitiesand also the whole of the neighbourhood
renewal schemebut it has been so well monitored and so
well evaluated, if you want to think about how you might evaluate
Chair: Message received.
you should have a look at that because that really did
tell you how many more people got involved. It was an area
of about 17,000 people, each one, and they could measure whether
more people got involved, and how they felt about that involvement.
Q58 Chair: Mr
Kruger; granularity is the problem, isn't it?
Danny Kruger: I
would say that it will be possible to see, or at least to intuit,
whether more people have more power in their lives, and secondlythis
will be the key test for mewhether they are using that
power responsibly, whether it has workedwhether localism
and empowerment have resulted in a stronger and better society.
Q59 Chair: Is
it whether these police commissioners, free schools and institutions
are showing success, particularly in the areas where we know society
is less strong?
Absolutely right, and I think those are appropriately part of
the Big Society. I do not regard the Big Society as like
a Department of Statea specific policy area. It is
allencompassing. Exclude foreign policy, and that
is perhaps it.
Is it measurable?
Possibly not, but voters do not decide on precise statistics.
Q60 Lindsay Roy:
Surely it is not, "Is it there, do we have a police commissioner?";
it is "How effective is that police commissioner at carrying
out functions?" That is the same in all the other criteria
Also, is there a mechanism for people to get involved and affect
how effective that person is: stop them, start them, whatever?
That is the key thing I have found, from going around thousands
of different people who agree, who do not agree, who feel like
they have been doing it for years, or who have just started new
things. They understand that it is not going to be neat
and tidy. They do understand that it goes across Government Departments.
If you speak to councils, one of the big things is that they realise
"Actually, this affects more than one Department", and
that change in mindset has been good for them and their effectiveness.
I would hope that the same people are involved in this sort of
service, and can produce a bit more innovation about how we could
provide public services.
Q61 Kelvin Hopkins:
Apologies first for missing some of the debate this morning.
I have been advised to moderate my questioning because I am deeply
sceptical about the whole idea of the Big Society. Is the
Big Society a new idea? How do you think the Big Society
differs from the Third Wayif at alland previous
approaches to community engagement and the provision of public
services? I have to say that I was, as a Labour Member of
Parliament, deeply sceptical of the Third Way too, and in fact
I thought it was a front for handing power over to corporations,
but then that is a view that you might expect from someone of
my background. Can you say, is it a new idea, is it any
different from the Third Way? Is it any different from the
communitarian politics of the past?
Can I just come in on that very quickly?
Chair: Can the panel answer
You are not a witness, Robert.
What is the difference between Blue Labour and Red Tory?
Chair: We will come to
The Prime Minister absolutely 'fessed up immediately: he said
it is not a new idea. He just said it was a good idea.
He did not say "I made it up". If we are truthful,
there are elements of crossover there with the Third Way, but
I think the difference from the Third Way is where we are now.
We have had things happen between here and there, and for me,
personally, we have communities in this country that have been
ignored, and I hope this is an opportunity to develop those communities
to the point where they do not get ignored because they have the
ability to go for themselves. I see this as part of the
mechanism for making that change. The reason I think the
Coalition and the Prime Minister are so serious about this is
because it meant changes in the law. It is easy to talk;
but, when you start trying to change the law, it would suggest
that you are at least partially serious, if not very serious.
Danny Kruger: Where
it comes fromand I was working for David Cameron when the
ideas were being dreamt upis the union of an old Conservative
tradition that has been revived in its turn by Iain Duncan Smith:
a Conservative social justice agenda. It is a union of that
with the localist, more libertarian, decentralist, individualistic
idea that other reformist modernisers in the Conservative party
have been saying is the answer to the Conservatives' problem.
It is a union of quite paternalistic, topdown, moralistic,
social renewal which compassionate Conservatives, or Christian
Conservatives, traditional social Conservatives were pursuing
with the more modernist, Portilloist, localist individualism,
and that is the union, and it is not always an easy one.
Q62 Kelvin Hopkins:
Edmund Burke argued that our primary attachment is to our local
community"little platoons". Is that still
relevant in the age when we live in urbanised society?
More than ever; we need that desperately. In fact, his reference
was to social class, not to the village: he was talking about
a nongeographical area of interest. Although we do
not want people to be identifying with their social class any
more, the idea of identifying with interests beyond one's geographic
community is more valid than ever, so I think within the age of
globalisation we need little platoons more than ever.
Q63 Kelvin Hopkins: A
third question is to Lord Glasman: how similar is the Big Society
to your Blue Labour ideology?
Q64 Robert Halfon:
What is the difference between Blue Labour and Red Toryism?
They are two different things. Blue LabourI do not
think it is particularly relevantis deeply rooted in the
Labour tradition itself.
Is it detoxifying the brand, to use your term?
Lord Glasman: I
think that would be a cynical but probably realistic approach
Q66 Chair: But
you were equally cynical about
Just stop me, I do not want to waste the time of the Committee,
but I think that we forgot about selforganised working class
organisations. I think that we forgot about power, action.
It should not be the case that doing PPE at Oxford should have
to be the criterion for becoming a Labour MP either. We
have to develop leaders from different areas: that is a very important
part of what I am talking about. We have to re-engage; the
difference between Blue Labour and the Big Society, and then Red
Torythere are distinctions between thoseis that
we do, Danny, think that class matters, that there are conflicts
at work, that capitalism is based on the maximum return on investment
and human beings need to resist that and mediate the effects of
that. That is the history of the Labour movement in general;
it is about the power of relationships and association to resist
the domination by the rich and the powerful, and the way we did
that was through democracy, not just through the state but in
the firm, in the areas that we live in, and it was a transformative
power. Particularly I honour the south Wales tradition in
this: the co-operative movement, the burial societies. That
was also related to a wider set of social institutions including
the chapels and the Catholic Church. So just to clarify:
what is missing in the Big Society now are two massive things.
The first is the genuinely organising model; it lost the organising
energy, and, Danny, I really respect the work that you did in
that early period. It was going there, but then it stopped.
Q67 Chair: But
why did it stop? Is this a political problem, or a structural
I really do not want to
Q68 Chair: I agree,
but this is what we are interested in. What is Government meant
The reason why it stopped is, that if you look at all forms of
organising, as soon as people get together and talk and act, they
take on market powerthat is living wage, that is interest
rate caps, that is affordable housing. I think there was
a genuine pause and people said, "What the hell is a Conservative
Government doing funding and training people who are going to
resist, going to campaign on issues that actually defy the market?"
Q69 Chair: So
it is a reality of politics.
I think there was a lack of nerve. If you look at the language
of the general election, which I think was very importantI
am not making this up, this was in the manifestoit was
"power, relationships, action, leadership". It was classic
insurgency organising language. There was a clenched fist
there with "power to the people" next to it. It
was a genuine, incredible move, but once there was recognition
that this would lead to genuine mayhem, genuine conflict, genuine
messiness, they gave it to the toffs.
Q70 Kelvin Hopkins:
You have introduced this concept of class. Now, excuse me,
but my simple view is the traditional view that what really gave
power to working class people were two things: majority Labour
governments and trade unions, and they have both been weakened.
Both the Labour party and the Labour movement need to be strengthened,
and they can only be strengthened by rebuilding relationships,
reconstituting them in the areas
Q71 Kelvin Hopkins:
The confidence of workers was in, particularly, big factories
with their trade union around them; they felt empowered, they
felt strong and they felt confident, and they enjoyed life.
When that was taken away and brought down to a small community
Chair: But why do so many
trade unionists vote Conservative? I do not think this is
a very constructive line of argument.
All I wish to say in response to this is, just to distinguish
this from Red Tory, that a huge amount of what is said in the
Big Society is absolutely true to the Labour tradition.
I think that in the balance between a majority Labour Government
and strong trade unions we have the evidence.
Can I answer on Third Way detoxification?
Q72 Chair: Very
briefly, because we need to move on.
I think that the Third Way was a classic piece of political positioning,
meaning nothing much. It was avoiding, "Are you left
or are you right?" and saying, "Well, we will
be somewhere else"nowhere reallyand it was
exactly like the Big Society as a brilliant, useful political
construct with no material, no substance.
Q73 Chair: So
you are against the Big Society. I am trying to get beyond
this political argument. Let us talk about what Government
If what it is is an airy thing, we have to discuss its airiness.
What will matter is what happens when concrete decisions are to
be made, so that if we are going to see power devolved to smaller
organisations, things that are closer to the groundprobably
not as close to the ground as thatyou would look, for instance,
at the DWP contracts and say, "Right, here was a fine chance
for the Big Society; out of 40 big contracts, two went to voluntary
organisations". A lot of voluntary organisations worked
really hard for years with brilliant results.
Q74 Chair: But
this is about the risk-averse nature of Whitehall, isn't it?
Well, I do not know, I think it is about the power of big business,
as Maurice said: it is big Serco and not Big Society. But
the PAC has actually found that all of those companiesthe
ones that had ever done this work at all beforedid it less
well than Jobcentre Plus. It is there in the PAC's Report
that came out a few weeks ago. Despite that evidence, the
awards were given to Serco, Capita, Tribal and all the rest.
These are the tests for the Big Society, and when it comes to
Q75 Chair: Miss
Toynbee, there is a sort of oligopoly of large companies that
seem to monopolise big public spending contracts.
Q76 Chair: But
that is a structural problem of Government: how should we address
Indeed; you could say that if the Big Society was really at the
heart of Government, if it was driving everything Government was
doing, it would have made sure that that did not happen.
Q77 Chair: But
how should Government do that?
Well, you would, for instance, make sure that smaller charities
and local charities can borrow money easily.
Q78 Chair: So
you support the Big Society Bank?
Well, if it was not so tiny. But if you saw, for instance,
Mr Pindar of Capita's interview in the Financial Times
the other day, he said "Just forget it: there is no way charities
are going to get any of these."
Q79 Chair: The
contracts are too big, aren't they?
He had been reassured about the NHS contracts and the public service
contracts. "Don't worry", he was told by Francis
Maudeit is all there in the FT"these
contracts will basically go to private companies. A few
round the edges will go to charities". If you are serious
about Big Society, you will want to find a mechanismand
it is not that difficultto make sure that it is the small,
the local, the experienced, the people with the knowledge.
I was on the board for quite a while of the Wise Group, one of
the really good providers based in Glasgow, which failed to get
one of those contracts, despite everybody expecting them to get
most of Scotland. It went to Ingeus and various others.
They will now get the pickings of the bits that are too difficult;
they will get the drug addicts and the prisoners and things that
they are very good at, with 30% creamed off the top by the prime
Q80 Chair: Miss
Toynbee, if you are the Minister and the civil servants come to
you and say, "This is what we do, we need to let big contracts
so they subcontract to people, they have given us assurances
that they will involve the charitable sector and do what they
do", what do you do?
You say no: if you are serious about the big society you say,
"We are not going to do it that way."
Q81 Chair: What
would you do instead?
Maybe you lean on the banks a good deal harder, making sure that
small organisations can borrow at the same rates as big companies,
and that risks can be taken. You concentrate on all of the
barriers in the way; charities are not allowed to borrow.
Q82 Chair: Mr
Kruger, what is the answer to this problem?
Central Government is spending half a trillion pounds a year:
it is that vast, and it is not going to be able to contract with
the hundreds of smaller local charities.
Q83 Chair: Why
Because it cannot; because it is too big itself. While we
have a centralised taxation system, where three quarters of public
money is handed out by central Government, we are not going to
be able to have the small scale local commissioning that we need.
Q84 Chair: So
the Government's aspirations?
Danny Kruger: I
dare say they are doing as well as they can. They can probably
only handle 40 contracts in central Government. You
need to have some sort of parity of relationship between the commissioner
and the provider. Whitehall is not going to be able to deal
with Only Connect, my little charity.
Q85 Chair: I
am not as defeatist as you are about this.
Danny Kruger: I
think they should be handing over the real money to local councils
to commission according to their needs.
Q86 Chair: Why
can't Government acquire the skills to contract with small and
Because there would be huge bureaucracy to do that.
It is a culture of being afraid, of not wanting to try.
Q87 Chair: It
is being risk-averse.
Exactly; this is where the council mechanism and the small and
regional mechanisms can and should be used. Polly makes
her point powerfully and clearly; it is true, and I do see it
as one of the largest challenges for the Big Society going ahead,
but the one thing I will say is, it is not over. I would
really like to believe it is not over.
Read Mr Pindar in the FT, and the guarantee that not only
the NHS contracts but all of the public service, any willing provider
contractsDavid Cameron has said virtually all the public
service is up for anybody to bid forwill go to the private
Chair: There is something
called the Public Procurement Directive in the European Journal
for public contracts, which does make things very complicated.
Q88 Lindsay Roy:
Polly very helpfully reminded us there is no year zero, and we
know already that some services are managed and delivered locally.
How much enthusiasm is there on the ground for an extension of
that, and to what extent do you think this is a top-down model?
I think most of these things are topdown models: I think
almost everything is being decided at the top. I have seen
no sign yet of anything being allowed to come up from the bottom.
On the contrary, you see people say "Do not shut our library,
our post office", everything that makes communities feel
at all like communities, "Do not do this," and it is
happening. They say, "Do not bring a great big Tesco in that
is going to destroy all our local shops," but Tesco wins
and the local community organisers do not. I don't see,
as yetand I would be delighted if mechanisms are found
to stop that being the casethat things that are really
valued by communities, that make people feel that a community
exists at all, are preserved. I would like to see Conservatives
conserving the very best of what is already there, not destroying
what little there is.
Q89 Lindsay Roy:
What are the views of the other members of the panel on the question?
While the money comes from topdown, the decisions are going
to come from the topdown. So while George Osborne
is ultimately responsible for handing out the funding, his people
in the Department are going to be handing them out. They
are not going to do it with the responsiveness and the effectiveness
and the local knowledge that they need to do it. So I really
think that the answer is probably quite a technocratic one about
local government finance and local taxation.
Q90 Chair: How
do the Government encourage the state apparatus to cut its own
cloth rather than just pulling in the funding from the third-party
organisations where they do not owe direct responsibility for
the redundancy costs and the reduction in service? How do
we deal with the problem of the funding of the voluntary sector,
given that we all agree there have to be at least some reductions
in public spending? Mr Glasmansorry, Lord Glasman,
I do apologise.
It's okay, "Dr" does not matter anymore. What
has not happened here is precisely this: a reconceptualisation
of the role of statecraft in the generation of new institutional
arrangements for the redistribution of power. We are stuck
with the old state market model; so we have the centralised state
with the money, and that does what it does, and then we have a
whole lot of private corporations coming in to it because they
are the only ones who can scale up and fill the gap, and society
once again is getting completely squeezed in the middle, and that
is why, Shaun, you have to understand, with a gentle heart, there
is a huge scepticism about the reality of this, because the corporate
power grows and in fact the state power remains undiminished.
So I think we have to go back, to really do justice to the Big
Society, to really thinking about institutions and community land
trusts and re-endowing areas with responsibility.
For example, there are two areas I will speak of.
The first is in relation to housing. If the Government could
endow communities with the freehold, it would halve the cost of
building the houses. Then local people can raise the money
to build their houses and they can own them. That is neither
state-controlled nor market-driven; there are market roles, state
roles, but above all, it is community ownership.
This is the Coin Street example.
Lord Glasman: Coin
Street is one example, but we have to think about people having
responsibility and affordability in family-sized homes.
It is the same thing at Dover Port. This is a classic case,
the case of Dover Port: is it going to be straightforwardly privatised
and sold off, or can the Port of Dover be endowed to the people
of Dover in perpetuity for the nation so they take responsibility?
As opposed to enclosing and selling off and privatising lands,
how do we actually use that institution?
Q91 Chair: Very
I just want to continue. The second thing is in terms of
endowing institutions. In the Tudor period they endowed
the Oxbridge colleges when we were behind in maths, in science,
in Greek and Latin. That was the story of Trinity and Kings,
the Royal Exchange in the City, which became the centre of the
City of London's predominance, and the Greenwich Maritime College,
where we caught up and exceeded. But we are not thinking
of the Big Society in terms of endowing autonomous institutions
in the areas where we are weak. We are not thinking of endowing
communities with land where they can take control over themselves.
There is a lack of real governmental statecraft imagination that
would complement the aspiration. As we know, the lesson of New
Labourwhich Cameron will learnis that when aspiration
becomes hollow and empty it begins to sour quite considerably.
It would be really tragic to lose this agenda.
Q92 Chair: We
have not really answeredI very much value that contributionwhether
it is a mistake for the state to charitable organisations as contractors,
which creates this dependency on the state, which inevitably breathes
in and out of economic crises, creating this terrible hiatus in
the voluntary sector?
They are not dependents: it is not money being given to charity
as if it were a charity donation, they are contractors.
They are doing a particular job. The local authorities
have said, "We want someone to deal with young offenders",
or, "We want someone to do a day centre for the elderly".
Q93 Chair: So
it has nothing to do with the Big Society, they are just emanations
of the state as contractors like Serco?
They do it better than the state, because they are often innovators,
they often lever in all sorts of other things, they are often
much closer to communitiesnot always, but they can be.
Q94 Chair: Using
big private contractors as opposed to charities is just bad contracting?
You often get better value for money out of a charity, better
understanding, and if the tendering process and the contracts
are written correctly, you then do not lose the added power of
having a voluntary organisation; if you force them to act like
a general business contractor then you have lost the whole point
of using them.
Q95 Chair: But
is it inevitable that all the local authorities are going to reduce
their contracts with charitable organisations and that it is going
to have a bad effect? Is that just inevitable?
One of the problemsto go back, I am afraid, to the cutsis
that on the whole, although Eric Pickles kept trying to blame
local authorities for cutting charities first in order to protect
their own workers, when you looked at it, and there is plenty
of evidence on this, the problem is that the charities on the
whole were doing the work that was not statutory. So they were
doing youth work, and youth work is not statutory, so the first
thing the council cuts is youth work.
Q96 Chair: This
is a localism problem; too much central control.
No, it is not about localism, it is not about that, it is about
the services that they provide.
Q97 Chair: Yes,
but if the Government are telling them to do some things and not
Well, the Government tell them you must stop old people dying
at home and you must stop children being killed by their families,
so you start with some very basic safety questions that are statutorynot
all that much is statutorybut what is discretionary is
inevitably going to go first, and that tends to be what the voluntary
Q98 Paul Flynn:
As the Ambassador for David Cameron, Mr Bailey, you were reported
as commenting that the voluntary sector critics of Government
reductions in spending wereand I quote"a few
people with their vested interests who thought they were going
to make a lot of money". Stephen Bubb, who represents
the voluntary organisations, described your remark as "a
disgusting slur on the work of some of our country's most loved
and most effective institutions". Do you regret
No. The point is directly aimed at a particular statement
that was made to me about a particular charity and particular
group of people.
Q99 Paul Flynn:
Who were they?
Shaun Bailey: Hold
on. It was in relation to the fact that their objection
was that under the Big Society their relationship with the Government
would be changed and they would no longer be receiving the large
amount of funding that they were going to receive.
Q100 Paul Flynn:
Do you not acknowledge that the funding they received was used
to do the good works that they were doing?
Yes, but the point is this: the funding that was available to
the entire country was retracting, and you can always get into
a conversation of, "Is your work any more important than
mine? I believe mine is the most important in the world,
you believe yours is the most important in the world." It
leaves the Government with some very tough decisions to make,
and that was a decision that was made. That particular group
of people spoke about it as if they had been short-changed and
robbed, but if you run this country you always have to make tough
decisions, asking, "Are you any more worthy than the next
charity down the road?"