Nick Hurd affirms government's commitment to 'big society vision'

The Minister for Civil Society has set out the government's flagship objectives in an open letter to the voluntary sector

Nick Hurd
Nick Hurd

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, has reiterated the government’s commitment to the big society agenda in an open letter to the voluntary sector.

The letter sets out the priorities for government and the Office for Civil Society and outlines the action the department has been taking to improve communities.

"The big society vision is based on the argument that we have given too much power and responsibility to government and have too little to show for it," it says. "We believe that the country will be stronger if we as citizens have more power and responsibility to improve our own lives, the communities we share and the public services we use."

The letter goes on to list the initiatives that the government has begun to deliver this vision, including Big Society Capital, the National Citizen Service and action to encourage more charitable giving, such as simplifying Gift Aid.

It also sets out once more the three main objectives the department has for the sector: making it easier to run a charity or social enterprise; making it easier to work with the state; and getting more resources into the sector.

But Hurd also warns that "a sector that receives £13bn of taxpayers’ money a year cannot be immune from the painful but necessary process of reducing government expenditure".

He says the department has "worked hard to try to mitigate the short-term damage to the capacity of the sector" and points to the £107m Transition Fund, which was set up to help some charities that were losing significant amounts of public funding.

"Local authorities could not have received a clearer message from ministers about the tests of reasonableness and the need to prioritise internal savings before cutting funds to the local voluntary sector," Hurd's letter says.

"Many have responded very positively and indeed have maintained or even increased investment. However, we know that this is not the case everywhere and that cuts have created real frustration and difficulty for the significant minority of charities and social enterprises that rely heavily on public funding."

The letter says the department will work closely with its strategic partners, "who enable us to fully link with the sector and continually allow us to hear the front line".

It concludes: "This is also a time where tough circumstances are requiring us to think harder about efficiency and finding better ways of doing things. The proud history of civil society in this country is characterised by tenacity, inventiveness and the ability to adapt to change. These qualities are needed now more than ever."

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