The Big Society: an opportunity for, or a threat to, public services?

The Big Society: Opportunity
or Threat
Funded by:
Hosted by:
Pete Alcock
University of Birmingham
Labour Government Legacy
Third Sector
• Partnership
• Strategic investment
• Political profile
Growth in public support –
2008: £13 bn; 36% of charity income
(England and Wales, Charities, NCVO Almanac, 2010)
Grants and Contracts
2000/1 – 2007/8
General Election Campaign
Consensus – welcome third sector….
• Public service delivery
• Community engagement
• Compact
• Social Investment Bank
General Election Campaign
Concerns in campaigning by third sector
• About impact of recession
• About public spending cuts
Ambiguity over Conservative’s Big Society
Coalition Government – Big Society
May 18 – PM and DPM
‘Big Society at the heart of public sector
July 19 – PM
Liverpool Big Society speech – ‘my great
Office for Civil Society
OCS replaces OTS - retains Cabinet Office role
• Minister for Cabinet Office – Francis Maude
• Minister for Civil Society – Nick Hurd
• House of Lords – Baroness Warsi
• Big Society advisor – (Lord)Nat Wei
Office for Civil Society
Dropping of ‘Third Sector’ – “that term has now
been abolished”, PM
Cabinet Office priorities –
• Making it easier to run voluntary organisations
• Making it easier for organisations to work with the
• Getting more resources into the sector
Building the Big Society
New policy agenda for OCS to deliver Big
• Easier to set-up and run charities, social enterprises
and voluntary organisations – mutuals taskforce,
new Compact
• Public sector workers to create employee-owned
co-operatives - right to provide, right to challenge
Building the Big Society
• Remove ‘red tape’ – market prices for public sector
contracts (‘level playing field’) – OCS/BIS taskforce
• Big Society Bank – from dormant bank accounts (up
to £400m)
• National Citizens Service for 16 year olds (pilot
schemes in summer 2011)
• Big Society Day – workplace volunteering (from civil
service to civic service)
Building the Big Society
• Train new generation of 5000 community organisers,
to become self-funding
• Devolve power to local government – and drive
down to neighbourhoods and communities
• Four ‘vanguard communities’ – [Liverpool], Windsor
and Maidenhead, Sutton, Eden Valley (Cumbria)
Building the Big Society
But other commitments dropped
• Futurebuilders
• Capacitybuilders
• Commission for the Compact
Or cut
• OCS Strategic partners
Big Society Discourses
Big Society website
ResPublica support
Nat Wei – Coral Reef analogy
• sea bed – public services
• coral growth – social and private enterprises
• fish – citizens and communities
Big Society Rhetoric
More than Third Sector reform –
a legacy to match the ‘welfare state’!
• Mending ‘Broken Britain’
• Remixing the Welfare State
Mending Broken Britain
Community empowerment
• What are communities?
• Communities can be exclusive
• Engagement requires time and resources
• Engagement requires skills and knowledge
Beware the ‘usual suspects’….
Re-mixing the Welfare State
Restructuring public services
• Cuts in public expenditure (25%)
• Private and third sector delivery
• Market contracting and surpluses
• Floating off worker co-operatives
Can third sector replace public provision?
Re-mixing the Welfare State
Rethinking public services
• Co-production
• Outcome based commissioning
• Total place
• Personalisation
What does this mean for Commissioners and
Third Sector Challenges
Change in public contracting
Cuts in public expenditure
Loss of horizontal support
Competition with private sector and third
sector organisations
• Collaboration, subcontracting, and
Public Sector Challenges
Cuts in service budgets
Competition in commissioning
Partnership and collaboration
Co-production and shift to front line planning
Outcome focused planning
Service Delivery Challenges
Market failure
Organisational failure
Loss of third sector unity
Loss of public mandate