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Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown’

Good news for the voluntary sector, but don’t stop now

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The Dormant Assets Commission reported last week that an additional £1bn to £2bn lies in old insurance policies, investment portfolios and pensions and can be released for funding the voluntary sector. This more than doubles the amount that has already been identified. 

The Dormant Accounts Act in 2008 provided for the collection and distribution of these forgotten funds. All the money so far has gone to Big Society Capital but Civil Society Minister Rob Wilson has already indicated that the new money could be used to “help good causes” in various ways.

First let’s put the numbers into perspective. The wonderful Comic Relief took 30 years to raise £1bn. Children in Need raised £46m last year. The Big Lottery Fund, far and away Britain’s biggest independent funder distributed £583m. All three are tremendously important funders of the third sector, particularly of smaller local organisations, but a dormant fund in excess of £1bn would be significantly bigger than all of them put together.  In the budget speech today the Chancellor will even announce to the nation government programmes with smaller numbers attached. There has already been much trailing,  for instance,  of an anticipated £320m for the expansion of the free school programme.

We congratulate the Minister for establishing this important Commission and we welcome its findings.

This, however, is only half the story.  I also want to make two other points:

First, the original arrangement was applied only to the small group of major banks included in the Merlin agreement – Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS.  At the time Gordon Brown made clear the intention to first establish the process with the biggest players and then expand the scheme.  Seven hard years elapsed before the Commission was set up to explore the options in December 2015.  Throughout that time we pressed ministers, their shadows and their seniors, Manifesto groups, a party leader and a PM to, at the very least, take a look at the possibilities. I recalled repeatedly that £11bn was the number first discussed as the full potential of the scheme at the time of its inception. Back of a Treasury envelope, perhaps, and maybe overstated but even half that sum, harnessed to a programme for refuelling the voluntary sector, would have been a really substantial and eye catching government programme or manifesto pledge.

Why did no one listen for so long?  It’s not as if the sector has had more money than we needed in these recent difficult years.

Second, the Commission reporting last week was understandably cautious in its estimates and limited in its purview. £1bn to £2bn is a long way short of those early numbers. I think there is more money still yet to be unearthed. Much of it may be in smaller amounts, some of it might even be local and in unlikely places.  In London, for instance, £223m lies on dormant Oyster cards – the sort that most Londoners have, at some point, lost, replaced and forgotten. Suppose TfL spent a very generous £10m on a three month campaign promoting the reclamation of this money. I doubt if very much would be claimed but suppose we were left with just half. As we have pointed out to London’s Mayor you could do a lot of important work in London’s most disadvantaged communities with £100m.

And these are all schemes that keep on giving. Although the big numbers have accumulated over many years and will never be repeated, additional installments reach the deadline date every year.  The London Oyster pot, for example, rose by £53m between 2015 and 2016.  Once the reclamation procedures are in place the process will generate a more modest but regular yield year after year.

Let us be clear, none of this money belongs to the banks, the pension companies, TFL etc. It belongs to us. If it can’t be returned to the original customer it should be used for the common good. It should not be used to bolster numbers and generate interest on big corporate balance sheets.

It is, without doubt,  terrific news that a further £1bn plus will be flowing into the sector soon and I don’t mean to be a grumpy old man but, amidst the rightful welcome, lessons must be learnt: Pain could have been avoided if the opportunity had been responsibly explored a long time ago.  Let us not now endure another nine lean years before thoroughly exploiting ALL the possibilities.

“We cannot be this rich and see people that poor”

Friday, January 29th, 2010

In 2004 Gordon Brown described how Michael Buerk’s report from Ethiopia on the famine 20 years earlier had spurred the country into action, with people feeling that “we cannot be this rich and see people that poor“. Gordon Brown, then chancellor, told the media that world poverty was the most important issue of our generation and called on the media to help fight global poverty. In doing so he warned that mass amounts of awareness would not guarantee effectiveness, that the first media drive to tackle poverty in Africa in the 80’s had a huge effect on the UK, but the second time around in the 90’s it was less successful in practical terms “Having shocked people in the 1980s, it is harder to re-shock them and re-shock them again” he said

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Saints Alive! The Politics of St Paul’s

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Brown and Rudd
On Wednesday this week, St Paul’s cathedral hosted Gordon Brown and the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in an ethical and moral discussion of the global recession entitled ‘My word is my bond? Rebuilding trust – the G20 and beyond. It was all very eloquent and even (surprisingly) funny but what did it add to the conversation about poverty that the Need NOT Greed campaign is part of?

The recent Living Values report, produced by Community Links, shows how the place of values in third sector organisations is what makes the sector special. It identifies a set of values held in common across the sector. Need NOT Greed, with its emphasis on the people who actually experience poverty and the need to work cash-in-hand, clearly cherishes these values, including making voices heard, transforming lives and generating public wealth.

Wednesday’s event was run by the St Paul’s Institute, which is a ‘Forum for 21st Century Ethics’. So, much of the talk from messrs Brown and Rudd was about values. The main point, hammered home, was that the market is still the best way to lift people out of poverty – we just need to tip the balance away from rampant self-interest, back towards a values-driven market. The vision of transforming lives through the generation of public wealth could be seen as a value shared by some of us in the sector and the higher echelons of government.

Both Brown and Rudd highlighted the need to be responsible, another value highlighted in Living Values, as key to the new, global, shared set of values needed to renew the market in a way that will defeat poverty. It would have been difficult for an event held amidst the religious grandeur of St Paul’s to avoid religious references and so the British PM dutifully read a long list of quotes from Sikhism to Christianity, all saying essentially the same thing – everyone should be responsible and act fairly to all.

It’s all very well talking about global, mutual responsibility. It sounds quite nice when framed in global terms. But at Need NOT Greed, we believe that it would be responsible on the government’s part to recognise that the majority of people who do claim benefits and work informally do so to survive – often out of responsibility to their families.

Gordon Brown talked passionately and, I believe, sincerely about the global recession being an opportunity to reframe the economic world in a way that will help the world’s poorest people. I hope he doesn’t forget the about ones down the road…  

For more on the campaign, visit www.neednotgreed.org.uk.  
Transcript of PM’s speech here
Download Living Values

Business, employment and the economy

Monday, January 12th, 2009

DWP Caxton House by RMLondon.Today the Prime Mister revealed plans to pay employers £2,500 for every long-term unemployed person they agree to take on. Employers will agree to provide training for a person on Jobseekers allowance for over six months.

 From Lord Mandleson’s speech at the Job Summit:

We do know broadly what we will need to be good at, and that is being smarter and more innovative and creative and more flexible and adaptive and confident and entrepreneurial than the competition. Because that is where more and better jobs will come from.”

 The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has also announced 75,000 new training places for the long term unemployed to develop their skills so that they become more employable when the job market picks up.

The Skills Secretary John Denham said:

We will not make the mistakes of the past and just leave people abandoned on the dole, or push them onto sickness benefit. We will do everything we can to help people through this tough time and help them prepare for the economic upturn when it comes.”

James Purnell saidOur message is simple, the longer a person is out of work the harder we will work for them.”

This is a change to the rhetoric of the recent DWP White Paper in that the long term unemployed are to be forced to do menial work in order to receive their benefits. The idea being that people will develop a better work mentality and it will prepare them for employment. One of our main objections to this, apart from the fact that people will effectively be paid below the minimum age, was that this kind of measure reinforces a negative attitude of people living in poverty and on benefits. Being made to do community work in return for benefits can destroy personal aspiration and self confidence. It does not offer any control and will only leave people disheartened about work and frustrated with the system.

However the rising unemployment levels and the economic down turn have prompted government to really take a good look at welfare and employment. The link between substantial training, holistic support and business development is being made in the policies put forward today to help people through the difficult times of the recession. They also give people more control in how they retrain for work and what route into employment they take, one option being supported is self-employment.

It is evident that today’s announcement is an attempt not to repeat past mistakes; parking the recently unemployed on benefits and creating another generation of people reliant  on benefits. Some are cynical of governments actions claiming that it will have ‘limited action’ and question where the money will come from. Media headlines are full of criticism about the long term unemployed and the cost to society. It is in times of crisis that the hardest to reach are often put aside as they are considered the most difficult to help. Today’s announcement is a welcome, small step in the right direction, investing time and money in supporting people into long term sustainable employment will not only help to eradicate poverty but can be an effective way to deal with the effects of the current economic climate.

Chain Reaction: the event is over … now the work begins.

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

chain reaction 08
We’ve been overwhelmed by the very positive response from participants who attended Chain Reaction. The Chain Reaction event brought together social leaders, community activists, policy makers, business leaders, and young people from around the globe to share learning and to generate new ideas for social change, locally, nationally and globally

You can find links to all the films, blogs, pictures, tweets and discussions on the Chain Reaction website and blog.

There are many reasons to be positive about what happened – over 1000 people, from 16 countries, at least 200 aged under 21, community organisations from up and down the country and beyond (including Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group and Family Housing Birmingham) and artists from Brazil, the Philippines, Croatia, Canada, Iceland and Kenya, Social Entreprenuers,  bloggers and techies with new tools to try out, business leaders (among others, CEOs from Royal Mail, IBM, CBI, BITC, Accenture) and a roll call of Ministers – including a 45 minute visit from the PM, who made Chain Reaction his next stop after the Economic Summit in Washington. 

All this, PLUS the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week, and then concluding with a celebration of inspiring people and projects with the Beacon Fellowship Awards.

David Robinson co-founder of Community Links and vice chair of the Council on Social Action speaking at the end of the event shared his immediate reflections with Social Reporter David Wilcox.


 

It’s just the beginning.  Success for Chain Reaction must be judged against a bigger vision – not just the people we met and the plans we made together but by what we do together in the weeks and months ahead.

We’ll be working hard to continue supporting people to connect, collaborate and commit and hope that you will continue to work with us.