Editorial: A nudge towards self-reliance

The Giving Green Paper confirms that the government is engaged in a serious and concerted effort to reduce the role of the state in society, says Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook, editor
Stephen Cook, editor

Most of the Giving Green Paper, launched between Christmas and the New Year, was indeed about giving and how it might be stimulated, short of giving donors tax incentives.

But the paper also contained short, significant sections about the developing plans of the Office for Civil Society for spending the unallocated elements of the £470m, four-year budget it was given in the comprehensive spending review in October.

One of the successes of the last government was the Grassroots Grants programme, which consisted of £80m in match funding for local endowments and £50m for small grants to local community groups. This success has been acknowledged, if rather quietly, by the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, and the two key components of the programme have duly been preserved by the coalition government.

It has, of course, been rebadged as Community First to reflect the new big society rhetoric and suggest to the unwary that it's actually something new. That's politics. But there are in fact some small differences - and, taken in conjunction with other developments, they confirm and consolidate the direction of travel of the OCS, which forms part of the increasingly powerful policy engine of the Cabinet Office.

First, the £30m grants element of the new £80m programme is dependent on match funding. Hurd says the matching is not an absolute requirement, which brings some sensible flexibility, but the message is there nonetheless: we'd prefer to help communities that also help themselves. And, second, the grants will be available only in the most deprived areas, which are yet to be announced. This tells us that organisations in more affluent areas are going to be expected to fend for themselves.

These are both tough messages that are partly determined by the need to use scarce public funding in a targeted and effective way. But there's more to it than that. This government is engaged in a serious and concerted effort to reduce the role of the state in society and make the sector more self-reliant.

Read Cook's blog on the green paper

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