Chris Rennard to chair Acevo’s Big Society Commission

ThirdSector reports:

After an all-night sitting in the Lords, Chris Rennard tells Third Sector how his group hopes to pin down some practical measures for building the big society…

The Liberal Democrat peer pours a strong coffee, sips it and perks up. He says electoral reform is one of his big interests because it is an important way of getting people to take an active interest in the issues that affect their local area.

He believes the same is true of the voluntary sector’s work, which is why he agreed to chair the Commission on the Big Society, set up by Acevo, the umbrella body for chief executives.

“People need to feel that they don’t have to wait to be asked to get involved in their local communities,” he says. “We need to make sure there’s no reticence about setting out to do things. That’s what the big society is all about.”

Rennard says the commission’s approach is broadly supportive of the big society agenda. “I recognise that some people, even those in government, are cynical about the idea,” he says.

“It was not a very effective election message because people didn’t understand it. But I think it will work in government. I’m personally impressed by the sincerity of many Conservatives who say the big society is what they would have wanted, regardless of public spending levels.”

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12 Comments

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 6th Feb '11 - 2:30pm

    “We’ve all agreed that our role is to recommend practical steps that the government, councils, civil society groups and businesses can take to make the big society a reality,” says Rennard.

    Asked what those steps might be, Rennard says it’s too soon for specifics, but he says the commission is likely to stress the importance of charities and community groups providing evidence of the impact of their work.

    “All cases that require taxpayers’ money are having to be made very effectively,” he says. “One question for the commission is how we can help organisations to measure the savings from the work they do and argue that they offer long-term savings.”

    Rennard says he is aware that many charities are struggling as they lose local authority funding, but he is optimistic that this trend will be reversed in the long term.

    “There are a lot of avenues for some voluntary groups to actually increase their funding by winning more contracts for service delivery,” he says.

    Sounds as though voluntary groups will lose their funding unless they’re willing to take over the provision of services currently provided by paid workers, and thereby save the council money.

  • “It was not a very effective election message because people didn’t understand it. But I think it will work in government.”

    Arrogant, pompous nonsense.

    Not that it was vague marketing puff, not that it now appears a device to get the voluntary sector to provide public services.

    No, we simply aren’t very clever, unlike the good people at Westminster.

    Still, its slightly reassuring to know that the contempt for professional politicians is reciprocated.

  • Yes please, let’s just draw a merciful veil over the BS idea, most people have always found it just patronizing nonsense. That Paul Mason post is spot on.

  • Chris Rennard 6th Feb '11 - 10:48pm

    These are the people who were asked by ACEVO (Voluntary Sector Chief Executives) to serve on the Commission:

    Lord Rennard (chair): Liberal Democrat peer, former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats
    Hilary Belcher, Director, Mosaic Clubhouse
    Paul Boateng: Former chief secretary to the Treasury, former High Commissioner to South Africa
    Nick Boles MP: Conservative MP, PPS to Nick Gibb, minister for schools, and former director of the think tank Policy Exchange
    Louise Casey: Victims’ Commissioner to the government, former coordinator of the Respect Taskforce
    The Right Reverend Richard Chartres: Bishop of London, former Gresham Professor of Divinity
    Phil Collins: Former speechwriter for Tony Blair, trustee of the think tank Demos, writer for The Times
    Matt Hyde: Chief executive, National Union of Students
    Peter McGurn: Chief executive, Goodwin Trust
    Michael Quicke: Chief executive, investment house CCLA
    Srabani Sen: Chief executive, Contact a Family
    Jane Slowey CBE: Chief executive, Foyer Federation, and chair of Skills – Third Sector
    Dame Clare: Tickell: Chief executive, Action for Children, and chair of the government’s early years review.

    All of us are doing this in a voluntary capacity – but with professional support from ACEVO.

    This was my contribution to a debate in the House of Lords on some of these subjects last Summer.

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2010-07-01a.1860.0&s=speaker%3A13277#g1882.0

    Chris

  • I don’t doubt the sincerity of the members of the Commission. It’s just a shame that it will be undermined by the Thatcherite government.

    Big Society or Shrinking Society?

  • Depressed Ex Lib Dem 7th Feb '11 - 9:27am

    Here’s an alternative assessment of the BS:

    The government’s spending cuts are “destroying” volunteering and undermining its “big society” vision, the head of a leading charity has said….

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12378974

  • David Allen 7th Feb '11 - 5:58pm

    “our role is to recommend practical steps … to make the big society a reality,” says Rennard.

    Asked what those steps might be, Rennard says … the commission is likely to stress the importance of charities and community groups providing evidence of the impact of their work.

    “All cases that require taxpayers’ money are having to be made very effectively,” he says. “One question for the commission is how we can help organisations to measure the savings from the work they do and argue that they offer long-term savings.”

    So there we have it. Voluntary groups wishing to access government funding will now have to spend more time jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to get it, and correspondingly less time in actually delivering the services which they would like to provide and government would like to purchase.

    Oh, and there’ll also be less money available in total, thanks to all the big society wallahs who we shall have to employ out of public funds, so that they can read and evaluate the “evidence of impact” which ACEVO have said they should be demanding from the voluntary groups.

    Time for a diversionary tactic. Better slag off Labour for being a bunch of statist bureaucrats who wasted public money on inefficient burgeoning administration. That should throw the beggars off the scent. It would never do if people recognised that we were going just the same way, would it?

  • Ed Shepherd 7th Feb '11 - 6:14pm

    The “Big Society” is a meaningless term dreamed up by millionaire politicians who will never be found serving in a soup kitchen or working with the disabled. Volunteers need financial help and reward for their work. We could find some of this money by drastically reducing the wages and expenses of our privileged political class. I volunteer with a local scout group. To do so, we volunteers have to give up wages that we could earn during the time we are volunteering. I have no doubt that the “Big Society” will prove to be a nice little earner for much of our political class and a stealthy way of reducing our public services by exchanging paid jobs for unpaid volunteering.

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