What recent estimate he has made of the likely change in the number of jobs in the voluntary sector as a result of reductions in public expenditure in the next 12 months.
Unfortunately, the sector cannot be immune from cuts, for reasons that have been explained. That would have been exactly the same under a Labour Government. We are trying to help the sector to manage a difficult transition, while shaping what we believe are significant opportunities for the sector, not least in terms of more public service delivery.
Since the late 1980s, Wallsend people’s centre has helped hundreds of unemployed and disadvantaged people in North Tyneside to gain the necessary skills to get to work. In the past year, it has lost more than £450,000 through cuts to Government grants. Four experienced support workers will now lose their jobs. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the communication he has received from the people’s centre about its plight, to which he has not yet replied?
Again, I am sorry to hear that that organisation is in difficulty. I am more than happy to meet representatives from the community to discuss it. The transition fund has been made available to help organisations in difficulty. I point out to the hon. Lady that many of the funding decisions and cuts are local decisions, and that many councils across the country are taking a positive approach by maintaining or even increasing spending on the local voluntary and community sector.
Cutting charities reduces our ability to help one another and undermines the structures of neighbourliness that form our big society. That is the opinion of the chair of the Charity Commission, who knows about these things. Is not the Government’s big society a big confidence trick?
Absolutely not. The hon. Gentleman has been around enough to know that the size of the deficit means that the sector, which receives almost £13 billion a year of taxpayers’ money, cannot be immune from the reduction in public spending, and that it would not have been immune, as the Opposition have admitted, under the ghastly scenario of a Labour Government. We have to be realistic about that. We are trying to minimise the short-term damage through initiatives such as the transition fund, and to create the building blocks for a better future for the sector, not least through more incentives for giving and more opportunities for it to deliver public services.