Mandy Gaylard’s Speech on Libraries & the Voluntary sector – Suffolk County Council Budget, 11-02-2016

I am speaking in support of this amendment.

Specifically Cuts to voluntary sector grants to be reversed, library service and archives cuts to be reversed and compensation for cuts from previous year, culture, heritage and sports cuts to be reversed and compensation made for cuts from previous year.

All of these cuts seem to run counter to the professed priorities for this administration.

They say they want to work with communities to empower them; they want to work with the most vulnerable in society, to increase economic growth, to raise educational attainment.

These organisations tick all of these boxes and more, however these cuts do not appear to be about this.

These organisations have taken cuts year on year but this is still not enough for this administration.

What is all this about?

The slashing of spending on public services and the voluntary sector is an attack on everything that would be necessary to create the society David Cameron says he wants, in which ‘the innovation, the can-do spirit and the imagination’ of people drives things. New initiatives and ideas need funding, and running a community centre or a library needs experienced people and resources.

Historically, vibrant community activity (as well as lower levels of inequality and a healthier population) have been seen most in times of high government investment in local public services.31 Public provision creates spin-off voluntary sector provision and informal community activity: libraries, educational institutions and community centres funded by the state provide a focus for people to gather and work together.

What is happening in Suffolk is killing the very essence of voluntary action and community involvement.  There is apparently a plan to contract further with voluntary organisation to provide specific services to SCC instead of giving grants.

The results of this overemphasis on the market model of providing services are killing off the voluntary sector.

William Beveridge: “People and organisations are…more ‘vigorous and abundant’ when given the freedom to act on their own initiative rather than when ordered from above.”

“Real debate by ordinary people is what distinguishes a strong democracy from a weak one.”

“Community groups are a way for people with less power in society to look out for each other and represent themselves. If they feel they have no voice, the result is increasing social strife in communities. This is why, historically, more enlightened governments and councils have given informal, needs-led local groups money and support which did not compromise their independence.”

(Carnegie UK Trust, ‘Making Good Society, Final Report to the Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland’, 2010, p28.)

This way of working kills innovation. Organisations in the voluntary sector becomes afraid of sticking their head above the parapet by offering constructive criticism or by pointing out the detrimental effect that SCC policies are having because they are afraid of losing contracts

Instead of working with the voluntary sector and outsourced organisations you are chipping away at their very being and vitality.

And we are all the poorer for it.

 

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