Francis Maude denies that spending cuts are undermining the big society

Cabinet Office minister responds to criticism by retiring CSV head Dame Elisabeth Hoodless

Francis Maude
Francis Maude

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has responded to claims made by Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of volunteering charity CSV, that the government’s big society agenda lacks a "strategic plan" and is being undermined by spending cuts.

In media interviews to mark her retirement this week, Hoodless said volunteering projects were being hit hard by government spending cuts and this was at odds with the big society agenda.

But writing in The Times newspaper today, Maude says: "Building the big society is not about pouring taxpayers’ money into the voluntary sector.

"What we are doing is supporting a new culture where everyone gets involved and society stops relying on the state to provide all the answers.

"I believe too much time is spent asking the taxpayer to prop up traditional organisations, rather than innovating and finding new ways to inspire people."

An article in The Guardian today reports that communities secretary Eric Pickles opposed plans to force councils to show they were cutting their own costs as much as their contracts with charities.

The plans had been developed by David Cameron’s head of strategy, Steve Hilton, Cabinet Office ministers Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude and Lord Wei, the government’s adviser on the big society, the article says.

It says that Labour leader Ed Miliband has written to the leaders of several large charities, asking them to take part in the party’s policy review on civil society.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of trade union Unite, has also called for the Public Administration Select Committee to launch an investigation into the government’s funding of voluntary organisations in the light of the big society agenda.

"The select committee needs to investigate the crisis that is engulfing UK charities," he said.

"If the Chancellor George Osborne does not address the crisis facing the sector in his Budget on 23 March, many charities will go to the wall and that will be the death knell of the big society."

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