Monday 13 September 2010

David Cameron, Barbara Windsor and Brussels.

A good article by Cameron in The Observer arguing the case for reforms in the system. Whatever the views on cuts there are two underlying drivers for change where I believe he is right. First, localism and decentralising power from the centre, and second handing over service delivery to the bodies best placed to deliver them.

The case for more decentralisation of power is strong the last two decades have seen too much power taken from local authorities. Thatcher and Blair both distrusted local councils. You can sometimes see why, but the answer is not to take power centrally.

However the proponents of localism sometimes over state their case. The Papal Encyclical on subsidiarity had it right when it argues that power should rest at the most appropriate level. Sometimes this will be national, sometimes European and sometimes regionally. There are many national charities, representing communities of interest who know that sometimes a national response is the right approach.

It is a fundamental mistake to assume "community" only means a neighbourhood. In Charlbury, in Cameron's constituency, there is certainly a very vibrant local community. In Brixton there are many diverse communities whose connection with place is transient and limited. Then there are the communities of people with disabilities, for example like autism, who may have a difficult relationship with their neighbourhood.

So the agenda is complex, even though I am sure the direction of travel is the right one.

On his second argument on public services again he is right. It is what ACEVO has advocated for a decade. When Cameron argues, as he does in The Observer article, that we will be able "to run local parks and post offices and generate their own energy" that is an exciting prospect. This is a major opportunity for the third sector. Even though we are rightly concerned about cuts we also know that the Government are unashamedly committed to expanding the sector's role in delivery. Our task is top-work with Government to achieve that expansion and to tackle the barriers that stand in the way. But we also know that the cuts in public spending will make that so much more difficult.

A major dilemma at the weekend. Friday night offered two competing attractions. Monteverdi's magnificent Vespers at The Proms and Barbara Windsor's final performance on EastEnders! But you can have your cake and eat it. I watched EastEnders with Monteverdi playing in background. Surreal. Amusingly I met Babara Windsor at the Last night of the Proms three years ago! A feisty lady. Great fun to chat to her.

And the rest of the weekend I spent on preparing my lecture; fast drawing close. September 22nd. Have you booked yet?

If not Click here.

On the theme "Rediscovering charity: Defining our role with the State".

And I see the lecture theme must be catching as I get a note from Stuart Etherington to say he too is giving a Lecture in November. He will be exploring "the relationship between the Big society and the Good Society".

One of the issues that this pinpoints is that Big Society is devoid of any concept of social justice. Big for what exactly? Is it about building a better more just society? What is the role of civil society in protest and advocacy; speaking truth to power as it is elegantly described?

But the problem of slogans; whether Big Society or Good Society is that they tell us little beyond the soundbite.

But it is good that both Stuart and I are setting out to define what we see as the proper relationship between State and sector and are drawing lines in the sand as to what we, the guardians of Big Society, see as that role. We must not allow the State to determine that relationship alone.

I'm blogging from the Eurostar to Brussels. Euclid Board meeting tonight. Over dinner. When in Europe do it the civilised way! Then tomorrow its our Annual meeting which we hold in the EU Commission. Baroness Cathy Ashton(the bizarrely named EU High Representative; sounds so Gilbert and Sullivan!)is making a major speech on Europe and the role of civil society. There is a strong case for the ideas of the "Big Society" to be translated into EU politics and bigger role given to thee many and varied traditions of the third sector across the continent.

1 comment: said...

all three things/ people in this topic post are amazing. cameron windsor gettin married in brussels wooo.