Nick Hurd warned yesterday that the Big Society agenda is under threat by government cutbacks and asked charities and the voluntary sector for its trust and flexibility.
“There is clearly a significant risk to the Big Society agenda,” the minister for civil society told a conference in Westminster.
The cuts will impact on the sector, but Hurd told Action Planning’s Charity Funding and the New Government conference that he will be pushing for a limited impact on charities at the first meeting of ministers with responsibility for the Big Society programme next week.
He said he will be telling other ministers to “make sure the state minimises the damage” to the sector and to “think about the impact on the local and voluntary sector”.
“We will try to make the process as painless as possible,” he said.
“They need to think Compact,” he added. “Be careful, be sensitive and act according to the principles of the Compact.”
But, he added, “The sector must respond to the times.”
“The sector really needs to get its house in order, and I’m confident that it will,” he said.
“Government is extremely hard,” he said. Warning that there will be cuts and contradictions that may be hard for the sector to bear, he said, “I do ask for some understanding”.
He asked for the sector to trust the government and assured them that "our intentions are good".
Unable to confirm whether the total value of public sector contracts to civil society organisations would fall, Hurd said that he saw charities being involved in the expansion of the total place approach to commissioning and that he would promote “a greater distinction between cost and value” in the commissioning process.
“Perhaps the only constraint on the sector is money; demand will always outstrip supply,” he said, pledging that getting the newly-renamed Big Society Bank up and making grants is a top priority.