Big Society

Oral Answers to Questions — Cabinet Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 27th April 2011.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Justice) 11:30 am, 27th April 2011

What recent representations his Department has received on the big society initiative.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I am delighted to assure the hon. Lady that the Cabinet Office receives many representations on the big society from a wide range of individuals and organisations, not least many colleagues on both sides of the House who have accepted our invitation to bring in representatives from their local voluntary and community organisations.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Justice)

I do not know whether the Minister ever gets representations from voluntary sector organisations that fold. The organisation that I used to work for folded a few weeks ago. Will he admit that that is because the cuts are too deep and too fast, and the transitional fund is too little and too late?

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I am obviously sorry to hear about the fate of the organisation that the hon. Lady used to work for. She will know that in reality the sector cannot be immune from the necessary cuts in public expenditure, and I do not think it would have been immune under a Labour Government. The Government have tried to give the sector maximum support through this difficult period. The transition fund—£100 million of taxpayers’ money; serious money in this context—is there to help organisations that are in a hole.

Photo of Roberta Blackman-Woods Roberta Blackman-Woods Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Yesterday, Ed Cox, the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research North, said:

“Our research shows that the Big Society will not be fair to the North without changes to government support for philanthropy and charitable giving. Good will is beginning to wear thin as people in the voluntary and community sector try to deal with budget cuts, and organisations in the North cannot turn to big corporate or high value donors to make up the gap”.

What is the Minister doing to ensure that the big society does not usher in further unfairness and exacerbate the north-south divide?

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office

I understand the hon. Lady’s point. I refer her to the geographical spread of successful applications to the transition fund, with which we are pleased. She mentioned the need for further incentives for giving in this country. I refer her to what was an extremely helpful Budget in that context, which had a major initiative to encourage giving through inheritance tax and a substantial reform of gift aid to make it easier for smaller charities to receive it on smaller donations. The Government are working extremely hard to make this difficult period of transition as easy as possible for charities.