Whitehall Watch Blog
Urban Forum has put its name in support of the new Social Value Act for two reasons. Firstly, because scandal after scandal shows that social value urgently needs to be put back into the heart of public services. Secondly, if this doesn't happen, the notion of local community groups in most cases being able to take over bits of public services is so much hot air.
We cast our eye over what's happening in Whitehall for one last time in 2011....
Big Society, we are told, is all about placing power in the hands of citizens - giving ‘ordinary people' a say over what happens in their communities. Forget the brand (which some suggest is now so toxic that it is being quietly dropped from the Prime Minister's lexicon), that's somewhat irrelevant, as there is now a great deal of consensus between Parties over the principle of handing over power to local people. Of course the quid pro quo for devolving this power is that people will be expected to do more for themselves; stepping in to meet local needs that may previously have been provided by the state. For the foreseeable future, these ideas are going nowhere - whether or not they are called Big Society.
So finally the government has published its Open Public Services White Paper, outlining its vision of where it wants us to be by 2015: (nearly all) public services outsourced - from running elections (remember the Bush election in 04?) running the fire service, to doing the commissioning and procurement. We can expect to pay for our services, with promises only for safeguards against this when tops ups are ‘inappropriate.' In addition, where we live – parks, libraries, museums, parking, you name it – wherever possible to be placed in the hands of parish and town councils to raise the money to plan, pay and commission them.
It started as a good news story....DCLG issued draft Best Value guidance following Eric Pickles speech at NCVO's annual conference saying he would take action to ensure local authorities did not cut funding to the VCS disproportionately or thoughtlessly. This ‘right to reshape' is something we have been lobbying for along with colleagues on DCLG's VCS partnership board. It is intended to create breathing space in advance of cuts being made, to explore how things might be done differently with less money. The publication of draft guidance was intended to set out the government's expectations of local authorities to adopt this approach.
So far so good...