Mixed views emerge on Rob Wilson's time as Minister for Civil Society

Wilson yesterday lost his Reading East seat to Labour on a surprising night for UK politics

Rob Wilson
Rob Wilson

Voluntary sector leaders have given mixed verdicts on Rob Wilson’s time as the Minister for Civil Society, after he lost his seat in yesterday’s general election.

Some praised Wilson’s handling of a difficult few years for the charity sector during his time in post, but another said his tenure had proved "a little bit disappointing".

Wilson lost his Reading East seat to Labour last night in a dramatic election result that saw the Conservatives lose their overall majority in parliament.

Wilson, who became Minister for Civil Society in 2014 after the resignation of Brooks Newmark, had been the MP for Reading East seat since 2005 and had a majority of 6,250 going into the election.

But a 16-percentage-point swing to Labour meant he was defeated, with Matt Rodda becoming the new MP for the constituency.

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, said that although Wilson’s tenure did have some positives, his time as charities minister would be regarded as a "little bit disappointing" overall.

Cleeveley said: "The focus he has had on small and medium-sized charities has been very welcome."

But he added that this focus did not translate into useful measures to help local charities provide services to their communities, particularly when cuts to local authority budgets were taken into account.

"There has been a bit of an over-focus on the contractual relationship between charities and public services," Cleeveley said.

More creative thought and the use of collaboration and grants would have been welcome in terms of helping smaller charities become involved in the provision of public services, he added.

On Twitter, Joe Saxton, co-founder of the consultancy nfpSynergy, welcomed Wilson’s departure.

Another person on Twitter reminded Wilson of his comment after the 2015 election, when he told somebody who asked him about homelessness not to be a "bad loser".

But others paid tribute to Wilson’s work over the past three years, with many noting his role in leading the government’s response to the media backlash against charity fundraising practices in 2015.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said Wilson would be remembered as a minister who had led reforms to fundraising, such as the introduction of the Fundraising Regulator.

"He was instrumental in helping to achieve a sensible solution to the problems in fundraising that came to the fore in 2015," said Etherington, who led the review of fundraising self-regulation and whose proposals Wilson accepted. "Through this, I believe his legacy will include helping to strengthen trust in charities."

Etherington also praised Wilson’s interest in small charities and hoped his successor would continue to work on the relationship between charities and public services.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity chief executives body Acevo, thanked Wilson for his work during a "difficult period for charities".

She said: "Once a new government is established, it should look to fill this brief as soon as possible. Charities and social enterprises are the backbone of our society and ought not to be left long without representation at the highest level of government. We look forward to working with the new Minister for Civil Society once appointed."

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John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, thanked Wilson for his hard work as Minister for Civil Society, and praised his role in setting up the National Citizen Service and his support for the #givingtuesday campaign.

"We wish him and his family all the best for the future and look forward to continuing our positive working relationship with his successor," Low said.

A statement from the Small Charities Coalition thanked Wilson for his "engagement on issues facing small charities" and expressed hope that work on making public sector commissioning work for small charities would "form the foundation for improving public sector contracting".

Other charity sector figures paid tribute on Twitter to Wilson’s time in office:

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