Big Society Bank will be 'active' in second half of 2011, says Nick Hurd

Cabinet Office says its minister's remarks are not at odds with original April deadline

Civil society minister Nick Hurd
Civil society minister Nick Hurd

The Big Society Bank will not begin making loans until the second half of next year, Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said yesterday.

Speaking at a House of Commons event on the future of public services, organised by the third sector bidding consortium 3SC, Hurd said setting up the bank had been "bloody complicated" and that he expected it would be active by the third quarter of next year - which would mean between 1 July and 30 September.

The Cabinet Office structural reform plan, published in June, said "first funds from big society bank available April 2011".

A Cabinet Office spokesman denied there had been any delay. He said it was always the plan to set up the bank by April and open for business by summer.

Hurd said the bank, which will be funded by money from dormant bank accounts, will be likely to have between £60m and £300m when it starts.

The bank, he said, would play a big role in providing working capital for voluntary organisations wanting to run public services and deliver the big society.

Government plans to involve voluntary organisations in public services would become much clearer with the publication of a white paper on public services reform in the new year, said Hurd.

But he said the changes would be radical and have a "profound impact".

The Conservative MP Chris White - whose private member’s bill calling for public sector contracts to carry social clauses that ask bidders what positive social outcomes their tenders would create is due for its second reading on Friday - said his bill would create a more level playing field.

Jane Greenoak, the chair of 3SC, said the group’s membership had grown to 1,260.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, the shadow minister for civil society, told Third Sector she was surprised about the delay and said it would be a disappointment to many in the sector. "I will be calling for an explanation as to why this delay has come about," she said.

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