Former charities minister criticises Civil Society Strategy as ‘very disappointing’

03 Dec 2018 News

Rob Wilson, former minister for civil society

Rob Wilson, a former minister for civil society, has criticised the government’s Civil Society Strategy for being “very limited” and “disappointing”.

Speaking to Charity Finance magazine, Wilson  said it “bore all the hallmarks of a cross-Whitehall failure to cooperate”.

The strategy was published in August by his successor Tracey Crouch.

He said: “The Civil Society Strategy bore all the hallmarks of a cross-Whitehall failure to cooperate as much as they could, and so what I thought you got was a very limited, disappointing strategy.

"She obviously had to fight a number of cross-Whitehall fights.”

Wilson, who was in post from 2014 to 2017, said he had dismissed recommendations during his tenure to produce a strategy.

He said: “I never wanted a strategy that would not do what I wanted and would be anaemic for where I wanted to get to.

“I had a number of suggestions to do it but I thought the best way was to build the things that will get me to my end point without having to rely too heavily on other parts of government.

“You end up spending a lot of your civil servants’ time and energy on consulting on and pulling together a strategy and that strategy then ends up being limited and not properly implemented.”

‘Unfinished business’

Wilson said he was “probably not remembered that fondly by the sector” because he made changes that “weren’t universally wanted or liked, although they were necessary”.

He said he expects the changes he made to bear fruit for the sector in future, particularly around alternative sources of income for charities.

“There are a whole range of other things [charities] can access, if we can get them all set up properly,” he said.

“That was the vision and the process I was going to, and I think in five, ten years’ time, the things I started and the vision I had will prove to be the right ones.”

In particular, Wilson was keen to see the estimated £2bn of dormant assets that have been identified to be used to set up a new endowment fund for smaller charities.

He said: “I thought that if we could get the £2bn from dormant assets, we could add to that in a whole range of different ways and build that up to a £5bn or £10bn endowment fund for the sector over a period of five-to-ten years.

“That would have a massive impact – it would all be grant-based and my vision for that again was to focus it on small charities.

“That was really one of the most important things that I had on my hit list to finish off before I left [in 2017].”

Subscribers to Charity Finance can read the full article, which also includes interviews with former ministers Baroness Angela Smith and Phil Hope, in the 250th issue and online here.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here




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