This is the second blog of three on the first event of our new Civil Society Innovation Network. Part 1 included videos from Lord Adebowale from Turning Point. This second post focuses on the Ministerial address by Andrew Stunell MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. Post 3 will be the key points and ideas on the Big Society from Andrew Elkington, Head of Policy, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.
Andrew Stunell MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State gave an account of the Government’s position; they want to turn the system around, so that service providers and councillors are accountable to the people, rather than to Whitehall. It is not always the people at the top that have the answers to complex problems – sometimes it is the people on the ground.
The Government, he said, do want things to change, which is what the Localism agenda is all about. But he was clear that local authorities and communities need to grab hold of this agenda now. At this stage it is not decided what will be in party manifestos in 2015, therefore local government needs to take the localism agenda forward to ensure that that future administrations can’t roll it back.
He spoke about the Barrier Busting work that DCLG are undertaking which is aimed at removing red tape, rules and regulations that may be stopping local authorities and community groups putting good ideas into action.
During the Ministerial address, the Network had a lengthy discussion about the nature of community.
Particularly, the group discussed the challenges around how the community sees itself, and how it engages with the state at times of economic instability. The system of benefits is changing and some public sector employees are losing jobs – in some communities this will hit hard. At times of such instability, especially in the poorest communities, the group questioned how you can give them economic prospects and encourage greater interaction and involvement with the state.
This sort of challenge will require communities to change how they see themselves; but local authorities and elected members have a vital role in leading communities through this.