The shadow Cabinet Office minister, Tessa Jowell, has admitted that red tape imposed by the Labour government on the charities it funded caused serious problems for some organisations.
Speaking at a meeting of voluntary sector representatives at the House of Commons yesterday, Jowell was asked what Labour should have done better when the party was in power.
"I don't want to say we made a litany of mistakes, because policy was shaped by the circumstances of the time," she said. "But towards the end of our time in power, we were seeing smaller groups facing collapse under the burden of regulations when they received public money. You have to see this in the context of the public service desert we inherited when we came to power in 1997."
Jowell also said Labour had lost ground over the big society agenda.
"Community responsibility has an instinctive salience with the public," she said. "It is the territory from which the Labour Party grew. Over recent years, we ceded some of that ground, but I hope that in the next few months and years we will reclaim it through our arguments and our actions.
"There is support for the idea behind the big society. But in practice, the failure of the coalition to pursue it through progressive principles means that, without a drastic change of direction, it will be doomed."
She said she thought public services should be delivered "by communities where possible, but by government where necessary".