I set up and managed a medium size community centre that was a Social Enterprise 10 years before the term was popular. I did it in my ‘spare time’ and a paid core staff run it. It won EMBS Social Enterprise of the Year in 2008 and remains self funding and sucessful. It is not a failing community centre, but neither is it owned or run or funded by the Council. An award of Core funding of less than 5% of its running costs was established this year. This is possibly due to its delivering a significant number of outputs for the Authority for years and they may be seeking more control.
And over the last five years it has had to battle with the local authority who actively hindered its operation rather than supported it. Yet when it was set up 15 years ago they were brilliant in helping in its conception. Perhaps parents seem to love the infant far more than the teenager! That may be the developing of a mind of its own that created a barrier. An independace of thought unwelcome in the ‘household’.
Baroness Warsi visited, returned several times and pre-election stated to the members ‘this is the model for others to emulate’. I expect she will still hold that view, but she and the government must work within existing community infrastuctures. And the view the establishment holds of 3rd Sector remains a suspicious one. And the view of 3rd sector and the Big Society of community services may be equally suspicious, verging on ‘not fit for purpose’.
It adds a huge weight against the sucess of the Big Society. The ‘Do it this way’ dictat to providers who are currently innovative and new, truly agile performers. The result is that often they are dragged down to the slow lumbering ‘process rich’ levels of the Local Authority. Suffocated to ensure they get the funding.
In bidding to take over a service the Local Authority decides who ‘wins’ the contract, and so it naturally seeks to replicate itself. If you are ‘one of us’ you can be worked with, you are capable of trust. If you are not, you are too risky.
There is a suspicion of Quangos, there is resistance to ‘independent’ panels who may not agree with policy. The whole LSP concept has had a difficult bith process and who holds the reins may account for much of that.
But whilst the usual suspects control funding and empowerment reform cannot happen, thinking will remain in the box and ambition will stay at a personal level rather than a community one
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