Government 'doesn't understand the voluntary sector'

Spending cuts damage the big society agenda, MPs warn

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

The government does not understand the voluntary sector and this means cuts are being made that damage its big society agenda, MPs have claimed.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, Roberta Blackman-Woods, the shadow civil society minister, said: "This government simply does not understand the nature of the modern-day voluntary sector and its wide range of activities, or the complexity that exists in the neighbourhoods in which it operates or the complexity of the problems that it must face."

She criticised cuts to volunteer infrastructure organisations, including the volunteering charity TimeBank, which lost all of its funding from the government’s strategic partners programme.

Lilian Greenwood, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, said: "The government have stated that a key objective of the big society is to encourage and enable people to play a more active role in society.

"It is therefore incomprehensible and strange to make cuts that undermine the organisations that provide such opportunities."

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, said the government had made clear in its Giving Green Paper how it would support volunteer infrastructure. He pointed to its volunteering infrastructure programme, which he said would be worth about £40m during the life of this parliament.

"We see big opportunities for the voluntary and community sector to do more to deliver more public services, and to have a bigger voice at the local level," he added.

Barbara Keeley, the Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said there were fears for the capacity of the sector.

"At a time when the government is talking about localism and creating opportunities for charities and community organisations, the sector will almost certainly do less this year than in previous years," she said.

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