Government too big to make progress on social problems, says former charities minister

EXCLUSIVE: Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society for three years, says territorialism and resistance to change in the civil service are major roadblocks

Rob Wilson
Rob Wilson

The government is too big and fragmented to make significant progress on major social problems, according to the former charities minister.

In an exclusive column for Third Sector, Rob Wilson, who was the Minister for Civil Society between 2014 and 2017, says that "mind-boggling departmental territorialism" and a civil service that is resistant to change are major roadblocks to improvements in society.

He says that under the existing system the contribution the voluntary sector could make to social change will never receive much attention and, unless a social problem gains the direct interest of the Prime Minister, little progress can be made.

Wilson calls for the establishment of a new Department for Social Change that would bring together responsibility for policy areas including health, housing, communities and civil society.

The proposed department would be overseen by a Deputy Prime Minister and a new Secretary of State for Communities and the Third Sector, which could lead to more streamlined government and decision-making.

"My personal experience… is that government is too big and fragmented to get much done that involves any level of cooperation or consideration from other departments," he writes.

"There is mind-boggling departmental territorialism to overcome, a civil service that is ultra-cautious and resistant to change and ministerial colleagues with either a lack of entrepreneurial spirit or a torpor induced by multiple failures to make progress.

He says the government system "works as a roadblock to change and is a master at setting traps against radical reform".

Wilson says former Prime Minister David Cameron’s big society agenda should have been a step forward for government by handing more power to communities and local government.

But it failed partly because it required huge personal will from the Prime Minister and coordinated action that central government is "almost entirely incapable of".

He says that the relationship between the government and the voluntary sector must be fixed by bringing charities into the centre of his proposed new department, which would enable them to deliver change at a local level.

Read the full article here.

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