After returning from the world forum in San Fran I immediately took a long-planned break to get some guaranteed sun. (For those that have seen me since my return you may have noticed that I probably got too much).
Despite the best attempts of volcanic ash clouds to keep me in the sun, I eventually returned last week to an intriguing and rapidly evolving political landscape…the ash is now clearing (although it stopped me from being in Belfast today, sorry Northern Ireland) as is the fog of uncertainty that hung around Westminster for a few days early last week.
Brown is no more, Cameron is PM and the first coalition government of recent times has been formed. OTS is also no more and we have a new Minister for Civil Society which I guess is where social enterprise will sit.
I had lunch last week with the Finnish Minister for Labour at the Finnish Ambassador’s residence in Kensington. Minister of Labour Sinnemäki is a green party politician working in a coalition whose main controlling party is Conservative. She was very relaxed about working within a coalition and perhaps didn’t understand the uproar that our own UK coalition had created in some areas of the media. It was an intriguing insight. But we weren’t there to discuss the UK’s political challenges; we were there to inform her of the ways in which government can help to create a blossoming and vibrant social enterprise sector.
The media has been rather unkind to Big Society but I know the new Government remains entirely committed to it and it looks like we will be hearing more about this later today. Participation is an essential aspect of a thriving democracy and social enterprise can provide a meaningful way to tackle our country’s social and economic challenges and offers a greater opportunity for our citizens and our communities to participate in the creation of those solutions.
SEC has a good relationship with those newly appointed ministers within the Cabinet Office. Nick Hurd has been a long standing supporter of our movement and Oliver Letwin was pivotal in the development of the Big Society vision. At least half of the new Cabinet have been on ‘seeing is believing’ tours of social enterprises organised by SEC over the last 4 or 5 years.
Additionally Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges demonstrate a deep commitment to our sector – wouldn’t it be great to have a minister for mutuals, co-ops and social enterprises?
Huge public sector spending cuts will no doubt create tough times for many social enterprises already being commissioned in the delivery of public services but we have big opportunities out there too.
We at SEC will be doing all we can to ensure that the new Government continues to develop its understanding of the true potential of our movement, and we’ll be ensuring that we are given as big a role as possible in helping to innovate solutions to move the country beyond its current difficulties.