Lisa Nandy, the shadow Minister for Civil Society, has tabled a series of questions in parliament about more than £2m of funding awarded to the Big Society Network by the Cabinet Office and the Big Lottery Fund.
Nandy yesterday wrote to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to call for an urgent investigation into the grants awarded to the Big Society Network and the Society Network Foundation, its charitable arm.
Her move came after a report from the National Audit Office found that the Cabinet Office had broken its own guidelines in the awarding and management of almost £300,000 of funding to the Society Network Foundation for the children's fitness project Get In, which was subsequently withdrawn because of poor performance, and criticised the BLF for its management of £1.8m of funding awarded to two projects run by the Big Society Network and the Society Network Foundation.
In 17 written parliamentary questions, Nandy asks the Cabinet Office to reveal the level of ministerial involvement in decisions to award funding by the Cabinet Office and the BLF, and which Cabinet Office officials were involved in the process.
She also asks whether ministers ever approached the BLF or Nesta, the former non-departmental public body, to ask them to fund the Big Society Network or the Society Network Foundation.
Liam Black, a trustee of Nesta when it awarded grants totalling £480,000 to the Big Society Network in 2010, said this week on Twitter that it had been "forced" to provide the funding. Nesta, which has since become an independent charity, denied the claim.
Nandy asks what steps the Cabinet Office is taking to recover the £119,000 of the department’s money awarded to the Society Network Foundation for Get In. She also asks for reassurance that Number 10 was not involved in any way with the decisions to fund the Big Society Network.
David Cameron launched the initiative in March 2010. "Independent from government, the Big Society Network will be a national campaign for social change," he said at the time. "It's going to be, whether or not there's a Conservative government. But of course a Conservative government will give it all the support we can."