Wednesday, 26 February 2014

First green shoots of spring?

Well, there are signs of spring in Brixton. The daffs are out and the camellias I brought back from the Lost Gardens of Heligan are flowering. Here are some pictures to cheer up the week - the camellia blossom looks particularly fine against the background of the Brixton Prison wall!

Will this be replicated in our charities and social enterprises, I wonder? 

Despite continuing deficit reductions, that cut vital support to the sector and our beneficiaries, there is also optimism. I liked the speech yesterday by Chris Leslie, the opposition Chief Secretary to HMT, where he talked about the need to reconfigure public services. We need to hear more talk like this from Government who have gone quiet on reforms to public services.

If we have to get more from less, then it can only happen if we radically look at how to expand third sector delivery of citizen-centred services. I know David Cameron is personally keen on this agenda, but he needs to be clearer making the case. Ed Miliband also has to back up his call for "people-powered public services" with plans that go beyond more consultation and vague talk of devolving power locally. And whilst I know the PM buys into the agenda on the third sector it is far less clear across the departments. Notably DH, where there are many signs of back tracking on choice and diversity of providers.

But this is not simply about reforms to increase delivery by charities. It is also about "voice". The magnificent campaign against the Lobbying Act showed we can be strong if we act together. Our voice needs to be heard in the upcoming election debates. It will be. Green shoots spell optimism. We will see if the Budget in March warrants this same optimism.

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