Big society must prove it is 'more than hot air', says Sir Stuart Etherington

NCVO chief executive will tell an audience tonight how the sector should put the big society vision into practice

Sir Stuart Etherington
Sir Stuart Etherington

The government must prove that the big society agenda is "more than hot air and good intentions" if it is to bring genuine change, according to Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

In a wide-ranging speech to be made at Cass Business School in London tonight, Etherington will set out how he thinks the sector should respond to the big society vision.

"The big society should not just be about the state pulling back, but about the state and civil society working together, supporting each other through the different roles they play," he will say.

"If the government is serious about taking forward the big society, it will need to convince people that it has a positive agenda and that it can deliver that agenda. It must be more than hot air and good intentions."

Etherington will also call for an overhaul of infrastructure support for front-line organisations, which he will claim is unsustainable and in some cases incomplete.

"There is a need to rationalise support and create stronger linkages between national, local and specialist services," he will tell the audience. "At a local level, for example, there should be a single portal, bringing together councils for voluntary service, volunteer centres and community foundations, to maximise synergies and provide seamless support."

The Office for Civil Society must also play a stronger role in promoting the voluntary sector in Whitehall, Etherington will add.

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