Labour MP seeks data that exposes 'joke of big society'

Anas Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, has started collecting information on government funding cuts to the voluntary sector at national and local level

DECC: contracts of £1.3m-plus with the sector
DECC: contracts of £1.3m-plus with the sector

Anwas Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, has set out to "expose the joke of the big society" by collecting information on government funding cuts to the voluntary sector at a national and local level and presenting them to Parliament.

Sarwar, the parliamentary private secretary to Liam Byrne, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, is a member of the Labour Party's voluntary sector policy review team.

He has asked eight government departments how much they spent on contracts with voluntary sector bodies in 2009/10. The responses show the Department for Energy & Climate Change had contracts worth more than £1.3m, the highest value of all the respondents, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had contracts worth £1.2m.

The Treasury had contracts worth £197,000 and neither the Home Office nor the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had any contracts with the sector. Some departments, including Communities and Local Government, said they either had no figures or that it would be too costly to respond.

Sarwar said he would ask government departments the same question next year and compare the figures with this year's responses.

He said he would also write to as many MPs as possible, asking them to provide examples of local authority cuts to charities in their constituencies. He urged charities to contact him if they had lost public funding so that he could campaign on their behalf.

"Reducing the deficit can't be done by hammering the voluntary sector," he said. "Charities are working with the most deprived people in the country. The idea of the big society is a joke, and I want to expose it for what it is. It will be unfair and uneven."

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