Examination of Witnesses (Questions 101-150)
Q101 Paul Flynn:
So your motives are pure, but the motives of all these organisationsmany,
as was pointed out, greatly respected organisationsare
tainted in your view? Would you like to identify the organisation
you were talking about?
First and foremost, at what point did I say their motives were
tainted? Their motives are not tainted at all. What
I was trying to say to you, if you listen carefully, is that they
believe their work is the most important in the world, and to
them it is, the same as mine is to me and Great Ormond Street's
is to them.
Q102 Paul Flynn:
But could you make the distinction
Shaun Bailey: The
point is that the Government had to make decisions about where
the funding was going, and it meant that some peoplevery
worthy peoplewere refused their money. But they did
not speak about it in the wider context: they spoke about them
and only them.
I move on from the vendetta against the witness.
Paul Flynn: They are questions,
Q103 Robert Halfon:
Just a couple of things: going back to the community organisers
issue, the Government had about 5,000 community organisers.
What is your view about that and how that is going to work?
For me, this is said with a gentle spirit and an open heart, but
that was the key thing: that none of this can be driven unless
there are local leaders who can bring people with them to make
things happen and to bring about change. In many ways the
Big Society agenda pivoted on this, which was correctly understood
by the Government, that there had to be a significant leadership
training course, and there had to be a curriculum. This
was one area, Chair, where there was a genuine discussion about
endowment, an endowment of a college for community organisers
that would outlive the thing, where the curriculum could be developed
and the training could be done. That is crucial. The
quality and the status of the training, the mentorship and the
development of the organisers is fundamental. It is with
sadness, a genuine sadness and regret, that when I look at the
curriculum of what Locality are developing, it has none of the
energy, none of the verve: it is just not leadership, it is much
more like how to bring people together, and hear everybody's view.
My answer to you, Mr Halfon, is that it is vital and I really
think it was a faithful call there.
Q104 Robert Halfon:
I happen to agree with you 100% about these corporates, and the
Chairman was very elusive on this, but is there not also a problem
of big corporate charities? Because 6% of charities get
90% of the income, and something about the Big Society that worries
me is that the huge big Tesco charities will benefit from all
the contracts and the work that is being supplied rather than
the little neighbourhood association that may just need a few
Chair: Some of those large
charities, like business, have whole departments that talk to
Robert Halfon: Sometimes
they are indistinguishable from Government Departments.
It depends very much; they are all very different. Some
of them are on very federal models where, under an umbrella of
a big organisation, a major concern, you have pretty locally run
day centres, projects, schemes. Others are more corporate
Q105 Robert Halfon:
But they are much better and able because they have big corporate
and public affairs departments to spend their time lobbying Government
for x, y and z, just like the big corporates.
Alas, with not much success so far.
Q106 Robert Halfon:
What I am saying is that for the Big Society to work, it has to
support the genuine little society: it has to go down to grassroots
levels so that the neighbourhood group can benefit.
Lord Glasman: Just
to say one big thing; I want to share this with the Committee
in defining the Big Society. In London Citizens, we do not
do services: we hold people accountable. This has been lost
in the mix. The whole point is to get organised people together
and to hold local charities to account. A lot of the work
that we do is to keep things honest in the system, and that is
the role. In a way, a lot of confusion went on with, "Are
we here to develop mutuals, are we here to do coops?"?
There is the whole thing of the restructuring. The thing
for the Big Society is for people to organise together and to
protect the people and the places that they love. That is
the whole story, and that has got confused. The root of
the confusion is whether it is service provision or accountability;
interest-based, or idealistic. None of these models have
been correctly ascertained, so I would be in favour of a relational,
interest-based accountability model that held government, local
authorities, businesses to account in the places they operate
Q107 Chair: I
think you have also explained how you want permanent diffusion
of power by this endowment process.
Yes, which assets and institutions are necessarily part of, and
I think that is outside of our purview.
Q108 Robert Halfon:
How would what you have just described about the structure
work in practice?
Lord Glasman: I
will give you one classic example. In a hospital there is
an individual complaints procedure. Where this is dissatisfaction
with the hospital, we encourage collective, associative action
to put pressure on the hospital to engage, whether there are issues
of hygiene, whether there are issues of humiliation. Basically,
if it is an individual complaint it is just that: it is a random,
anomalous fact. But where there are systematic institutional
problems that can only be addressed through social engagement,
through social action by organisers, that is the key: it is not
about the provision, it is about the accountability. What
we want is skilful, professional, vocational people doing their
work and being kept honest by the people to whom they provide
services being partners, not in the production but in the accountability.
Q109 Chair: We
need to come back to this question of how smaller Big Society
organisations can be involved in delivering public services.
Is this a possibility? Can they do this consistently, or is it
something for central Government?
Well, not open heart surgery; it depends what you mean by public
services. There is such diversity the moment you ask that
question. There are some things that are really very much
better done by the smaller
Q110 Chair: My
GP, your GP practice, is quite a small business, actually, and
it is a private partnership.
Yes indeed, and it is about to become a hell of a lot bigger,
because consortia look like they are going to be enormous.
Q111 Chair: It
will still be a private partnership, but it will hopefully have
more power to advocate on your behalf.
It is a very peculiar hybrid that you would not find as a model
anywhere else: it is a weird bit of history.
Q112 Chair: A
weird bit of history? It is the backbone of the health service.
It is not: it was a compromise at the last moment in the creation
of the health service that left this rather weird hybrid situation.
Chair: General practice
could be regarded as the most successful part of the health service.
What do we do on these Committees when the Chairman goes out of
control and off piste with his questions?
Q113 Chair: I
do not feel I am off piste, but the question is what can Government
do to support and empower much smaller organisations like the
kind of charities and voluntary groups that you represent?
Basically, we have a centrally driven system because of where
the money comes from. Wherever the money is administered,
who is in charge of that money will determine how granular you
can get with the distribution of that. That is why the local
authoritywhich is not always a perfect vehicle, by the
way, for distributing money to charitieswill be important,
but you cannot do it from Westminster. Also, there needs
to be a distinct line between what can be provided and what cannot
be provided by charities, because the big charities have all the
stability that a big organisation will have, and they may be able
to take on some of the more onerous bits of work that the Government
do, but as you get further and further down the scale you need
more clarity and long-term support in order to allow those small
charities to develop a mechanism to carry this out properly, so
you do not want to be giving one, two or three years of funding
in contracts: it needs to be long term.
Q114 Chair: The
danger is with small organisations, as with small businesses,
that the Government will hand over some money for something to
be delivered, and the individuals will take the money and run.
It happens, doesn't it?
Shaun Bailey: I
would like to think we could do it a little bit better.
Q115 Chair: But
Mr Kruger, would your organisation ever consider signing a contract
with central Government or local government?
Danny Kruger: To
take the money and run?
Chair: No, not to take
the money and run.
Danny Kruger: There
is no contract that our tiny little outfit could possibly enter
into with Whitehall.
Q116 Chair: Or
with local government, or with the local probation services?
We deliver services; we get paid a small amount by council, police,
not probation or prison, as it happens, although we do work for
Q117 Chair: NOMS,
as it is now called.
Yes. We do little jobs for the public sector in that sense,
but local government, I think, is the appropriate level for us
to be contracting with. We are in this world of contracting
out massive contracts to massive corporate conglomerates, like
Serco, and it might be that we could be a subcontractor to a subcontractor
But they will take 30 to 40% off the top before they hand it to
you, so you will do the hardest work and they will make quite
large profits out of your hard work.
Q118 Chair: And
then they will steal your ideas.
Danny Kruger: That
Or they will claim they did it.
Shaun is right. It sounds pessimistic: the fundamental answer
is going to be about local government retaining more of local
taxation and spending it as it sees fit. Beyond that, there
are things that are being done of which I approve, like the Big
Society Bank to help with lending. I think the community
organising principle is right, to somehow engender the spirit
of civic activism, and there are arguments about how that should
be done; we might be doing it wrong.
Q119 Kelvin Hopkins:
Lord Glasman, you are quoted in our papers as saying, "the
Big Society is a cover, not for cuts but for corporate domination."
How much is the Big Society just a staging post to shift what
is being publicly paid for, publicly accountable, publicly provided,
into the corporate world?
This is what is at stake in this discussion, in fact. There
are two models, there is the market model and the state model.
If you want a socialist modellet us call it that for a
momentwhereby there is power in the corporate governance
given to the work force, the users, the locality, to the funder
as well, which is vital, then that is a big transformation of
the way things go. At the moment, Danny, once again, it
is with generosity that I say that there is a swing between, "It
has to be state", or, "It has to be completely neutralised,
co-ordinated by one interest only, the worker interest."
This balance of power is completely missing, but that is crucial
to any institution and the Big Society idea is that that is when
people come together, where countries embrace. For exampleDover
Port is a classic case in pointunless a community land
trust is held in perpetuity by the people of Dover for the nation
then all of this would just lead to a situation where, if a company
is successful it gets bought out, and if it is unsuccessful the
assets get marketised. Cadburys is a good example of how
that works. Unless there is a conceptualisation of institutional
assets and endowment, what you will have is Serco and the big
corporations ultimately using the Big Society as a staging post
for buying up Government services when they fail. This is
what is at stake here. Obviously I would say that, I do
not want to get into endless argument. I would say that
is why we need to be quite radical in our thinking about assets,
institutions, power, corporate governance and balance of interests.
Q120 Kelvin Hopkins:
There are some who would argue that we should have public services
provided by profit-making companies, but what role do you think
there should be for making profit out of public services?
Lord Glasman: I
think in terms of the provision of public services, that is a
completeI do not know whether to call it a red herring
or a blue herring.
Q121 Chair: Politicians
do love saying, "This is fine, this is not for profit"
or, "We are going to let to a not-for-profit organisation".
Lord Glasman: This
is another heresy of mine: I do not think either of the big issues
are around coops or mutuals, I think that is interesting
but not central. What is absolutely central is that there
is an energy generated by balance of interests in every institution,
that a common good is pursued, and that it is always the same.
In every institution there is the funder, which is legitimate
whether that is capital in the private sector, or whether that
is the state or the local authority in the local sector. There
is a work force.
Q122 Chair: Does
that automatically mean Coop good, Tesco bad?
No, not at all. Just to clarify, I am going down the opposite
track. I am saying that in every institution, whether public
or private, there should always be a balance of interests, where
the owners, the users and the workers are each represented and
generate a common good through negotiation. That way, you
generate energy. This is the paradox of community organising,
just to go back: you can only have a common good if there is tension,
if there are degrees of conflict. That is what is missing.
Q123 Kelvin Hopkins:
I am willing to be persuaded of anything, but I am old-fashioned,
I like good public services, free at the point of need, democratically
accountable, equitable across the whole country, staffed by directly
employed, dedicated, properly paid public servants, all driven
by the public service ethos. That is my view. I have
not heard a convincing argument for changing that arrangement.
Lord Glasman: That
is all great, but the only convincing argument for that is the
experience of public services. Often the management was
overbearing, the workers were demoralised and often it was not
that great. This goes back to a discussion we are not going
to have now: people have to be given power to change their lives,
but there can be no responsibility without that redistribution
of power to actually do something. That is just an invitation
Q124 Kelvin Hopkins:
I must say, this is not my experience of the national health service,
for example. I may say, in the last couple of decades when
there has been pressure to be more commercial in the way operates,
there has been a degree of demoralisation.
Could I give one example, just to share it, of why the Big Society
is important, why engaging with this model is important and how
we should do better than that? I read a report on mental
illness and the public sector. It says that there are 250,000
children on antidepressant drugs. This cannot be right:
we cannot be turning a quarter of a million children who have
got behavioural difficulties into a medical condition. The
lack of relationality, the lack of time to love and care for people
in the system, and how to get genuine relational support, are
the issues here. Danny, this is time that needs to be spent
building trust, love, care and concern for people, and we have
become very procedural, very administrative, very technocratic.
Q125 Chair: Briefly,
can I invite the other members of the panel to comment on this
if they wish to?
It is very dangerous to say that there is just one model.
There are some things that different organisations can do best;
there are some things that the voluntary sector does best.
Quite a lot of things the state does best, and I do go back to
that Public Accounts Committee report that shows
Q126 Chair: This
seems to be the burden of your complaint.
The idea that private is always best has been absolutely exploded
by the Public Accounts Committee.
Q127 Chair: But
who advocated that private is always best?
A lot of people: it has been the default position. Quite a lot
of the Labour Government and other people assumed that if something
was not working very well in the public sector the answer must
be to privatise it because an A4e or whoever will come in and
do it better; they will sell it better. The report really
showed that it was not the case, and the DWP itself, its own jobcentres,
did significantly better at getting people into work, which was
an important thing. It does not mean that the state is always
the best, but I do think that there is a huge pressure to say
that it must always be better to outsource: outsourcing always
must be the better way of doing it. I am against that.
Q128 Chair: People
used to say the man in Whitehall knew best, and we do not say
that any more.
Sometimes the man in Whitehall does know best. Sometimes
awful things happen out there and the man in Whitehall has to
be there to put it right, and to step in and say, "This is
a disaster"whether it is the care quality standards
at Stafford hospital, or whateverwith a backstop of people
Q129 Chair: What
Jesse Norman calls "the rigor mortis state": the long
screwdriver from the Treasury, the tweaking of benefits
For some things, but not for others: we can all find an example
to fit our model, but the point is that whatever service you are
looking at, there are an awful lot of times when you are very
glad that the state is there, and the state is all that is there
to save people.
Q130 Chair: But
micromanagement from the centre does not work, does it?
Part of the challenge for the Big Societyhowever we go
forwardis to figure out at which point you institute any
given mechanism, because I am also of the opinion that it is not
always about the private sector. The problem is about internal
mechanisms and where the fear lies. If you work in a council
you want to give a contract to a big company because it will accept
any financial loss. We need to have the political leadership to
say, "We will support you to find the right mechanism, not
the cheapest mechanism", and for me that is one of the big
challenges for the Big Society. One of the bookends on this
conversation for me is that it is not over: it has started, and
it will take some time to figure out. I will go back to
the office of the Prime Minister and say, "At this Committee
meeting many things have been brought up that you may need to
have another look at."
Q131 Chair: We
are going to do a report.
I would champion the report in front of certain people.
Can I understand one other thing: the idea that ideas from the
centre are always wrong is not right either.
Q132 Chair: I
am not saying that.
No, but again there is a sense that topdown is always bad.
Sure Start was created because there was an vacuum in the welfare
state, cradle to grave. There never was a cradle.
It required the initiative of Government to say we need nurseries,
we need families to be helped and supported at the very earliest
point. We need these Sure Starts, and where they work well
they really areor werehubs of local communities,
where mothers gather together, parents gather together, which
is the place where community often starts.
Q133 Robert Halfon:
I accept some of what you said about the Sure Starts, but could
not that money that was spent on Sure Start have been given directly
to smaller charities and family groups
Some of them were run by charities.
Q134 Robert Halfon:
to set up those things themselves, rather than set up a
huge new state structure?
It was not all state structure at all: 4Children runs quite a
few of them. Quite a lot of them were run by charities.
Q135 Chair: It
was a centralised blueprint, though, wasn't it?
You needed the money because it was quite expensive to get it
going, and, what is more, you needed money because, although the
community aspect was very important, what was also really important
was the professional services for families in real trouble.
Q136 Chair: Lord
Lord Glasman: I
just wanted to come in here on the Sure Start issue because this
is crucial for the problem and where the Big Society may have
gone wrong. Sure Start started as a completely relational,
mother and child-based thing. It was brilliant: mothers
got together and they helped each other with their children.
They did not just get together: there was an enormous mechanism
to support them doing it.
Lord Glasman: Sure,
and it was done through different local charities: it was a very
good example of diverse institutions
Q137 Robert Halfon:
But it is a state infrastructure that needed to be created.
Lord Glasman: What
it was not was ends-based, activity-based; all those things were
brought to bear to bring relationships to people who were isolated,
and who were having difficulty. In three years it became
a welfare-to-work programme, in which the whole thought was to
separate the children from the mothers and get the mothers into
the workplace, and that is why it is vital to have some power
Q138 Robert Halfon:
Why couldn't the money have been given directly to the charities,
local charities, family groups?
Because in a lot of these places there was nothing there.
The most money was spent in the very poorest places where there
was least social capital and there was nothing there.
Q139 Kelvin Hopkins:
I want to return to my original question about the role of profit
making in public services. I give you two examples. One
is the health service in America; health is provided privately
and it takes up twice as much as a proportion of GDP as the British
health service, which is still largely public. The railways
in Britain are privatised; they are in public hands on the continent,
and we have just had a report saying that our railways cost 40%
more to operate than the continental, publicly owned railways.
The case for private profit making in the public services seems
to be, I think, utterly destroyed by such examples.
There is a question of quality though; to compare the maths, I
do not know the answer to this
Chair: And there is a
question of regulation as well.
Shaun Bailey: in
terms of qualities and how they are privatised.
It depends on what kind of privatisation.
Chair: And how the railways
are regulated; I do not think we should get bogged down by this.
Kelvin Hopkins: I remain
to be convinced.
Q140 Lindsay Roy:
Just a bit of contextif the Big Society is about anything
it is about profit making, and in my view, it is about social
capital, it is about dividends, benefits to individuals and communities
and families and to their wellbeing. However, what I wanted
to pick up on was that there has been a thrust towards mutuals.
Has there been any increase in mutuals? Is that a benchmark
for the success of the Big Society? Are you aware of any
increase in mutuals or co-operatives?
They have not really got going yet. Maybe there is a wish to encourage
them, and Shaun can tell us about that, but it seems to me that,
I am afraidyou may disagree with me hereit is always
going to be fairly marginal. Wonderful things happen like
Coin Street because, at the very last moment, Ken Livingstone,
just before he was bunged out by Mrs Thatcher, gave them a dollop
of land. It was the greatest thing he did. John Lewis
got going because the founder gave it. These things are
Q141 Chair: And
very controversial at the time, Coin Street, wasn't it?
Very controversial. It is quite hard to construct a whole
political idea to make those things happen everywhere or in any
kind of way other than random bits.
Just to reiterate, one of the models of privatisation is a worker
buy-out, mutualist model. Obviously, I have my reservations
about that because there is no balance of interest there either.
Once again, if this is a serious agenda, there has to be endowment,
institutions with assets that can have some capital to grow and
There are two stages: the first stage is that there are many more
employee mutuals asking the question, "Could there be a viable
employee mutual, should they do that?" There are some
in the pipeline, there are even a few that already exist, but
if you look at the growing number of people who are asking, it
would suggest that there will be many more in future.
Q142 Lindsay Roy:
Chair, I wonder if we could get some written evidence on that
I would still say this: it is small and growing. It is not
a tidal wave.
Chair: We will ask you
for a note on that, if we may. Mr Mulholland.
Q143 Greg Mulholland:
Thank you very much, Chair. One of the strands of the idea
of the Big Society that we have not particularly touched on today
so far is the idea of getting people to be involved, and specifically
to volunteer. The Hansard Society did a survey in March
which, rather worryingly for the whole concept, found that only
one in 10 people say that they are certain to volunteer over the
next two years. Is that a significant problem for the Big
Society? It also suggests, perhaps, with attitudes in this
country compared to those in some countries, that it is a little
I think it is very difficult; the economy in Britain is driven
by a long-hours culture and all sorts of problems with where people
work and where they live. We are not sufficiently communal,
communitarian: it is the way our economy and our society is set
up, and that is historic. Secondly, the cultural expectation
is that social responsibility is the job of the state: people
find it very difficult and they also do not see the point.
I think there are these genuine barriers, and it will have to
just happen. I do think that people have a yearning to participate,
to take responsibility, to belong, and as we know it is an incredibly
fulfilling experience when you do get stuck in, but it is quite
hard. Also, volunteers are not always the answer.
We have volunteers in our organisation: they are fairly useful,
but they waste their huge skills. We get these incredibly
high-powered professionals come in, and all we can get them to
do is to cook dinner. I regret the association of the Big
Society idea with volunteering, because I do not regard that as
a central term, but the spirit of participation and taking responsibility
has got to be.
May I throw in another statistic? The third sector research
centre at the University of Southampton is actually rather more
optimistic. It finds that 25% of people, which is quite
high, volunteer at least once a month, and some of them a lot
more. We should not be too pessimistic about people's willingness
to get involved, and a great many more people say they would like
to. But again, it is hugely weighted towards the affluent
areas. Two thirds of volunteering is done by 7% of the population.
Q144 Chair: It
is a challenge, that this is concentrated in affluent areas, but
this is not a reason not to try and extend this concept to less
No, but the idea that it will just spring up because David Cameron
says let us have a Big Society
Shaun Bailey: There
is no idea that it will just spring up. This is one of the
challenges that the Big Society is trying to take square on.
The whole idea about volunteering is that we have quite a passive
society, and it is about moving us on to be engaged.
Q145 Chair: Particularly
the parts of society that have become used to state handouts and
state help and topdown solutions being imposed.
But that is where Polly's point is right; Polly is absolutely
spot on: the areas of the country that need volunteering the most
are where people are the least likely to volunteer. There
are things afoot to change that around, it is one of the journeys
that the Big Society is on. It gives a message to charities
like v, volunteering in this area, to change that, and if you
survey people below the age of 25 you get a better response, and
that is some of this gaining purchase with young people to change;
as younger people become more used to volunteering, it becomes
something that is done more readily.
Lord Glasman: This
whole concept of volunteeringDanny, I completely get the
pointmisses it. When David Cameron and Steve Hilton
first came to London Citizens, they said to the group it is wonderful
to see such a spirit of volunteering, and no one in that room
thought they were volunteering; they were doing politics, right?
And they were pursuing their interests. It is engaging people's
interests in what they do that will drive this: if people feel
that their children, their wages, their housing is up for grabs
here, they do not say, "I am going to do some volunteering".
Q146 Chair: It
is enlightened selfinterest, not pure altruism?
Yes, selfinterest broadly conceived, and that is what generates
a common good, when you can link that with others. That
is the Labour story.
Q147 Robert Halfon:
That is why it is about social entrepreneurs rather than volunteers.
Social entrepreneurs are individual leaders who have an agenda.
You have to engage the associative energy of people.
There is an absolute horror at the idea of a national day of volunteering.
The voluntary sector absolutely shuddered at that: the idea that,
suddenly, one day a year they would get a whole lot of people;
all of the Cabinet would have to go one day a year. I was
talking at a brilliant youth centre the other day, I was just
visiting them, and they said the problem was that people from
the City kept saying, "We want to do our bit, CSR and all
that. We want to send you 10 people to go and volunteer
for one day. We do not know what to do with them: we want
their money, so we charge them for volunteering, but they are
Or we want them to stand up for the living wage.
Q148 Chair: We
must draw to a close.
Or we want them to come every week and take one group of children
that they get to know.
Polly's point is right: that is the reality of it, but it does
not mean we should not try. If you try to get people more
engaged with their self-interest or anything else, they then at
least get the concept that they could be engaged. Too many
of us sit around not engaging.
Q149 Paul Flynn:
What we have got at the end of this is a Government promotion,
a gimmick, a personal one by the Prime Minister that is taking
away £1.3 billion this year from bodies that have served
the country wellwait a minutegoing up to £1.4
billion, to create what? To create a Big Middle Class Society?
Shaun Bailey: The
money was taken by the previous Government.
Paul Flynn: What will
replace it; volunteers, speculation, theory?
Q150 Robert Halfon:
Final question, and you might be surprised for me to say this
as a Conservative, but I have a view that trade unionsif
you put away Bob Crow in a box for a minutehave a fundamental
role in the Big Society, and we should be engaging with them much
more because of the service provision: they are the Big Society.
Could I just take your views on this?
I totally agree, and that is a good one to end on, because I would
challenge Maurice's idea that it is simply about power, advocacy
and mobilising communities to demand their rights from the state
and from corporates. The best tradition of the left is the
trade union movement, which, before nationalisation, was a provider
of all the services that communities needed, from insurance to
education and health care. If only trade unions would provide
this once again, and dedicate themselves to providing services
people need rather than mobilising.
Robert Halfon: A lot of
them do; a lot of them provide services already.
They provide legal support for people, they have education in
schools, they do a whole range of other things. This is
what trade unions do. Industrial action is a tiny proportion
of what they do.
Chair: I am going to draw
it to a close. I would like to thank our four volunteers
very much indeed for appearing, pro bono, in front of this
Committee. It has been a very, very rich session, I am extremely
grateful to you all.