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Select committee inquiry into the big society

By Sophie Hudson, Third Sector Online, 16 February 2011

Inquiry into big society

Inquiry into big society

Public Administration Select Committee, chaired by Bernard Jenkin MP, wants to understand what it means and the effects it will have

The Public Administration Select Committee will carry out an inquiry into the big society to find out what it means and assess its potential effects on society and the voluntary sector.

The inquiry was announced at a meeting of the commitee yesterday by its chair, Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for North Essex.

"Everyone seems to agree that empowering communities, opening up public services and encouraging social action are good things, but what does this mean government and local government should be doing?" Jenkin said in a statement after the session.

"This is a huge challenge against the background of sharp reductions in state spending and state support for the voluntary sector."

Jenkin said the big society could mean a huge culture change for government and the way it operates.

"I don’t believe that the Whitehall machine or the civil service has really started to understand the implications of the change that is required," he said.

A spokesman for the PASC said it was hoping to receive evidence from charities and people who felt they would be affected by the big society.

He said the committee wanted to hear evidence on a definition of the big society; governance and accountability issues arising from the voluntary sector delivering more public services; and the role of local authorities in the transfer of power from Whitehall to communities.

He said the committee hoped it would then be able to offer the government constructive advice on how it should implement policies relating to the big society.

Responses to the inquiry have to be submitted by 18 March to pasc@parliament.uk and should be no more than 3,000 words. Oral evidence is expected to start in April.

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