Bernard Jenkin says MPs critical of big society implementation rather than policy

Chair of Public Administration Select Committee says its recommendations will help charities provide more public services

Bernard Jenkin
Bernard Jenkin

Bernard Jenkin, who chaired the committee of MPs that published a report on the big society yesterday, has said the document was critical of government attempts to implement the programme rather than the actual policy.

The Public Administration Select Committee described the big society as "incoherent" and "confusing", and called for the creation of a big society minister to oversee progress.

Speaking at yesterday’s Christmas reception of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Civil Society and Volunteering, Jenkin, the Conservative MP for North Essex, said: "We have looked at the nuts and bolts of what ministers and civil servants need to do to deliver what the government says it wants, which is more involvement of charities and voluntary organisations, especially local ones."

The criticisms, he said, were of "implementation" rather than of "concept" or "philosophy".

Jenkin said he hoped the issues the report highlighted, such as charities’ concerns over contracting arrangements and staff transfers under the Tupe regulations, which protect pay and conditions, would be considered as part of the consultation on the government’s Open Public Services White Paper.

"I hope we have taken this above the party political fray to make it better for you to do what you do," he said.

Martyn Lewis, president of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, told Jenkin the report was wrong to talk more favourably about small charities. "The NCVO is proud that its represents charities of all sizes," he said."

Lewis said even big charities were smaller than many medium-sized private companies, such as Halfords.

He said there was no need for a big society minister. "We at the NCVO think we already have one, and his name is Nick Hurd," said Lewis.

Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, did not respond directly to Jenkin’s speech or to Lewis’s comments.

He said the sector was "going to be tested like never before" but that it could weather the economic storm and emerge playing a bigger role in the provision of public services.

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