Angela Smith will use Labour conference to promote Labour's new line

Charities have received 'unprecedented support' from the Government, says third sector minister

Angela Smith
Angela Smith

Third sector minister Angela Smith says she will use next week's Labour conference - the last before the general election - to "flag up the differences between the political parties" on the voluntary sector.

The Basildon MP, who was given the charities brief in June, told Third Sector she would use the conference to stress the contrast between the "unprecedented" support she says Labour has given the sector with the "non-interventionist" stance of the Conservatives.

"In the recession we've been very interventionist and supportive, but at every stage the Tories have taken a non-interventionist line," she said. "In the future we want to work with and support the sector - but if you look at what's been said by the Conservative front bench about the sector standing more strongly on its feet, that doesn't gel with the message we're giving."

She said she was alarmed at reports of comments made by Oliver Letwin, chair of the Conservative policy review team, that charities could run services more cheaply than the Government or the private sector.

Smith will speak at the conference at events organised by the NCVO, the Charities Aid Foundation, the Social Enterprise Coalition and Volunteering England. She will also have face-to-face meetings with a number of charities.

She said that since she had become the minister, the main messages she had heard from the sector concerned the increasing demand on its services, the difficulty of coping with rising numbers of volunteers and the need for more funding.

The conference would be part of a process of developing ideas for the manifesto, she said: "We are learning and listening all the time. It isn't going to be a flash in the pan-type conference."

Also...

Disability charities Leonard Cheshire, Mencap and the MS Society will use social networking website Twitter to put questions from the public to social care minister Phil Hope during the Labour conference.

The three charities are organising a "speed-debating" event on the reform of adult social care. Those not attending the conference will be able to make a live contribution to the debate through Twitter. The event will be repeated at the Conservative and Liberal Democrat conferences.

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