Local councils want to become more socially entrepreneurial, but need the help of the voluntary sector, a round table of senior figures in public service delivery was told last night.
The event was organised by Catch22, a young people’s charity that specialises in delivering public services, and was attended by its patron, The Princess Royal, as well as leaders from the private, public and voluntary sectors.
"We need to grow social enterprises, but we need help," said Nick Wilson, strategic director for children, schools and families at Surrey County Council. "The sector could help in getting local government over the line."
Wilson said that councils faced such big budget cuts that they needed "systemic change" in order to continue. As a result, he said, many staff were looking at how they could use mutuals and other social enterprise models to deliver services.
"Staff want a different relationship with the community," he said. "Many of them are looking at different models."
But Chris Wright, chief executive of Catch22, said that it was hard to develop dialogues with local authorities. He said that local authorities too often responded to cuts by "salami-slicing" rather than considering new ways of doing things.
Princess Anne said she believed that local authorities were making considerable progress in developing a more entrepreneurial way of working. "We’re seeing more local authorities producing social enterprise models that are showing signs of working," she said. "They are making money. They are sustainable."
She said that local authorities spent much of their money on dealing with individuals with severe difficulties, and that it was difficult to carry out interventions that would prevent the next generation of acute problems. But there were social enterprise models, she said, "that can break that cycle".