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Nesta: ‘We were not forced to fund Big Society Network’

24 Jul 2014 News

Nesta has denied a claim by a former board member that it was “forced” to provide start-up funding to Big Society Network.

Earlier this week, former Nesta trustee Liam Black tweeted that Nesta was “forced to provide £££ to Big Society Network. Scandalous waste of money.” 

He sent the tweet the day after the National Audit Office published a damning report on the funnelling of public funds to Big Society Network by the Cabinet Office and Big Lottery Fund.

Liam Black was a trustee of Nesta when it was still a non-departmental public body, from December 2008 until early 2012.  He did not join the new Nesta board when it was spun off as an independent charity in April 2012.

Nesta has already confirmed, in response to a Freedom of Information request from Civil Society News last year, that it provided grants totalling £480,000 to Big Society Network in 2010 to help it set itself up and launch three projects.

But in response to the allegation by Black that it was “forced” to provide this money, a Nesta spokeswoman said: “Nesta was not forced to make this or any other grant. All funding provided by Nesta is awarded following detailed review and these grants were approved by our trustees. If any trustee thought Nesta was being coerced in any way they would have been obligated to raise it at the time.”

She also said that since Nesta became an independent charity in March 2012, no funding has been given to the projects - or the organisations running them – that were highlighted in the NAO report.

“Nesta was approached for grant funding for the Your Square Mile, Get In and Britain’s Personal Best projects and decided not to fund them,” she said. “It has always been the role of our board of trustees to preserve our independence and the grants to Big Society Network were approved by our trustees.”

Liam Black this morning declined to expand on his tweet or state who it was that forced Nesta to make the grants. “It’s water under the bridge,” he said.  But asked whether he stood by the claim in his tweet, he added: “The truth’s out there now.”

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