The Big Society - Public Administration Committee Contents

8  Conclusion

160. The substantial change expected to result from the Big Society project, namely the devolution of power to communities and citizens will not occur overnight: if successful, as witnesses suggested, it will take a generation. The Government's Big Society statements have, so far, failed to communicate this point effectively. There is public confusion with the policy agenda, eighteen months into this administration. Confusion also still exists among many service providers. Early examples, such as the Work Programme, have caused the charitable sector to express serious reservations about the implementation of the Government's ambitions in practice.

161. To bring in charities and voluntary groups to deliver public services, the government must take steps to address the barriers they experience in the contracting and commissioning system, which means developing a plan to address roles, tasks, responsibilities and skills in Whitehall departments. We recommend:

a)  A single Big Society Minister, who has a cross-cutting brief, to help other Ministers to drive through this agenda once they begin reporting progress against the aims of Open Public Services White Paper, from April 2012.

b)  An impact assessment, applied to every Government policy, statutory instrument, and new Bill, which asks the simple question: "what substantively will this do to build social capital, people power, and social entrepreneurs?"

Unless this is done, the Big Society project will not succeed.

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 14 December 2011