Office for Civil Society 'has only tiny amount to spend on third sector'

Kelvin Hopkins, a Labour MP on the Public Administration Select Committee, says funding works out at £86,000 per constituency

Kelvin Hopkins
Kelvin Hopkins

The Office for Civil Society has only "tiny amounts of money" to spend on the third sector, a member of the Public Administration Select Committee said yesterday.

Referring to the OCS budget during an evidence session on the work of the Cabinet Office, Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP for Luton North, said the OCS had a budget of £56m to "encourage social action in third sector organisations".

He said the third sector had been a big part of the government’s philosophy. "But the funding works out at £86,000 per constituency, which is really nothing," he said. "You’re talking tiny amounts of money."

Richard Heaton, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office, giving evidence, said that the OCS was designed to "work with the sector in a different way" and offer "small, seed funding" in areas such as social investment.

"The small amount of money we spend in the form of catalysing the sector, if you spread it around the country, wouldn’t go anywhere," he said.

He said that "a thread that runs through the Cabinet Office" was "innovation, doing things imaginatively because at a time of austerity we don’t have the capability to do it at a big scale".

Heaton said: "Social investment is a great example of that; it was pie in the sky five years ago, but now we’re leading the world. It was discussed at the G8. That’s the sort of thing that the small resource we have in the Cabinet Office can help make happen."

But Charlie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover and Deal and another PASC member, said the Cabinet Office was "spending more on social investment than on making sure government works, which is a core function".

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