Tag: Conservative Party

Big Society on a Small Budget – can more really be done for less. Notes from a Conservative Party Conference session.

Damian Hinds MP and Michelle Smith of Barclays talking about Big Society
Damian Hinds MP and Michelle Smith of Barclays talking about Big Society

I’m trying to cover as many Big Society sessions on the Conservative Party Fringe as I can get too –  not least looking for any clarity on what it might mean.

The first one was run by The Citizens Advice Bureau:  Big Society on a Small Budget – can more really be done for less. Notes from a Conservative Party Conference session.  The Panel Was Gillian Guy – Chief Executive of Citizens Advice BureauDamian Hinds – MP for East HampshireTherese Coffey – the MP for Suffolk Central and Michelle Smith, Head of UK Consumer and Community Affairs for Barclays UK Retail Bank and Barclays Corporate.

Sifting through my notes there were a number of things that struck me:

Gillian Guy from CAB explained the extent to which they use volunteers

12.5 million people helped on the web.   20,000 volunteers, already represent a good start to the big society. We want public services to be simpler and we want to the voluntary sector and communities to be trusted.

Damian Hinds outlined what he thought are the key elements which will underpin the Big Society…

  • Language and the mood is important – as a government we need to show that we are turning to the right people for advice.
  • Programme of devolution to local councils (when you devolve planning to individual councils you can take more interest)
  • Direct empowerment, right to bid taking over a community facility
  • Free schools programme, people now know that they could decide to make their own school
  • Information revolution, open data the web. – there will be enough people in anyone location to hold power to account
  • Big Society bank to provide extra finance
  • Encouraging volunteering – government needs to get its employees out doing volunteering.

Therese Coffey – MP for Suffolk Central key thoughts included:

  • We need to remove the mentality of the civil service culture.
  • We need to ensure that government does get out of the way.    Some aspects of the equalities act will hamper organisations trying to deliver the big society.
  • De-complexify government.  Need to provide some finance. Unemployed should be expected to go out and do some work in the voluntary sector.
  • The National citizens service is over cautious.
  • The other risk is there is a vacuum at the moment –  can the third sector flesh out some of the vision please – don’t wait for the pilot areas.

Michelle Smith seem to catch the mood of the room when she talked with real passion about how the volunteering done by Barclays staff benefits neighbourhoods and the business and the staff.  For example…

Half of our staff are actively involved in their communities on a regular basis.  We match charitable giving and fund raising and provide time off .  This improves staff retention and  performance, staff who volunteer are A third more likely to be rated A performers than those who don’t.

Worth listening to this interview….

Stuff I've seen April 18th through April 21st

These are my links for April 18th through April 21st:

  • Better ways to share information digitally « Observations – The Observatory’s Population & Society Group is planning a seminar in the summer to investigate and discuss how research organisations in the West Midlands can get better at sharing information digitally. Do you have any thoughts on this?
  • Google News Timeline – Google News Timeline supports lots of different types of queries that you can add by clicking on a checkbox below.
  • Birmingham City Council Press Releases – An independent site that purely exists to allow a space for commenting on Birmingham City Council Press Releases.
  • World Bank API – Welcome to the World Bank Developer Network! – The World Bank's first API offers 114 indicators from key data sources and 12,000 development photos (see all sources). We are releasing this API because we believe this information can be mapped, visualized and mashed up in an unlimited number of ways that will help develop a better understanding of trends and patterns around key development issues.
  • The Conservative Party | News | The Blue Blog | Making Government data work for you – "MySociety are campaigning for Parliamentary bills to be published in an internet-friendly format, so the public could be kept up-to-date with their progress through Parliament. Thankfully, David Cameron agrees – it’s a great idea, and one that could lead to a UK version of OpenCongress (or, better still, our version of YourOwnDemocracy – an ambitious US project still in its early stages) becoming reality."