Simon Parker, director of the New Local Government Network, writes about the challenges faced by local governments trying to deliver services and the role the social and voluntary sector could play in the future as a collaborative partner:
“Britain is undergoing a moment of profound stress in the relationship between the state, the market and civil society. Austerity is shrinking the state to the extent that government – and particularly local government – cannot possibly deliver the same range and quality of services that it did in the recent past. Even if more money does become available, it will be swallowed by the costs of health, social care and pensions.
Sonia Sodha’s report on Doing Good is exceptionally timely. It is among the first major statements from civil society about the role it should play in this great realignment of social activity. Sonia rightly fights shy of drawing too many conclusions, preferring to set out questions which will help to define the debate. For me, the most interesting of these questions is about the relationship between doing good and local government.
Some local services are currently coming under huge strain. From parks to libraries, street cleaning to social care, the only feasible way to preserve the things local government currently does is through a surge in social action. But this is traditionally difficult terrain for charities and philanthropists, who tend to see themselves as purely additional to the state.
The question is how councils can facilitate a move towards much higher levels of local social activism. How best to combine the tools of social investment, new technology, philanthropy and social enterprise to generate a new wave of community-owned services? What role should local businesses play in supporting those businesses?
We need to see bold experiments with councils investing their resources in building up new organisations which will ultimately be independent of local government control. We need the social sector to find ways in which it can support this process.
Ultimately, we need to find a way to crossbreed the best of the public and social sectors in a bid to create new hybrids that can continue to do good in an increasingly icy financial climate.”
Simon has just released a new book, #TakingPowerBack
27 April 2016