Archives for the month of: May, 2011

Today the following statement was issued on the Cabinet Office website, which I’ve copied in here:

‘Lord Wei has announced he will stand down as the Government’s Adviser on Big Society to take up a new role with the Community Foundation Network driving practical development of Big Society ideas in communities.

‘Lord Wei has played a crucial role in developing the cross government programme of reform that is devolving power to citizens and communities and supporting them to make a difference. He remains a committed advocate of the Big Society and will continue to champion the cause of social action in the House of Lords.’

The Prime Minister added:

“Nat has worked incredibly hard over two years to help develop policies that support the Big Society. He has played an important role in delivering key initiatives like Community Organisers, National Citizen Service, and the Big Society Bank. I wish him every success in his new role with the Community Foundation Network.”

Lord Wei said:

“I look forward to taking on this new role where I will be getting out into communities and advising investors, organisations and community leaders in helping them to transfer power and resources from the centre to where it is really needed.”

“I will always be proud to have played a modest role in helping lay the foundations here on which the Big Society will be built in years to come. I want to thank everyone, but particularly the Prime Minister, for giving me this opportunity and for pursuing this vision with courage and determination. I look forward to helping in my own small way outside Government – because it is out there, in local communities, that the heavy lifting must now be done.”

It has been truly an honour to serve in Government, as well as before that for a number of years in opposition. But I am confident now that the policies that are now in place will serve as a great foundation for the Big Society in years to come. It has become clear to me in the last few months that there is much work to do outside of government to advise people, communities, and what I call civic entrepreneurs to help build the Big Society locally and make it easier for everyone to get involved.

I am really pleased to be working with the Community Foundation Network moving forwards, a fantastic movement, to develop some ideas in this regard (see below for some blurb on what they do). I’m also going to be active still in supporting the development of citizen-led giving and investing, and playing a part in helping the Chinese community here and in strengthening positive social, economic, and cultural ties between China and the UK. As ever I will continue to blog about Shoreditch, social reform, and the Big Society, and I will be communicating more about my plans here in the months to come. Thank you to everybody who has helped me and supported me up until now and I look forward to continuing to work with you to make our society stronger and bigger!

About the Community Foundation Network

Community Foundation Network represents the community foundation movement in the UK. Its aim is to help philanthropists create lasting value from their local giving through its network of 58 community foundations.

Community foundations are charities located across the UK dedicated to growing philanthropy, strengthening local communities, creating opportunities and tackling issues of disadvantage and exclusion. Community foundations manage funds donated by individuals and organisations, building endowments and acting as the vital link between donors and local needs.

97% of the population live in the area of benefit of a community foundation and CFN manages funds on behalf of the Office of Civil Society, Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief as well as private philanthropists.

Last year community foundations invested £70m in 26,000 community based charities making the network the largest UK-wide independent funder of community based charitable activity.

For more information about the Community Foundation Network and my future role please contact: Stephen Hammersley or Jane Rawnsley on 020 7713 9326

For more information about Big Society and my former role, including all related press enquiries, please contact the Cabinet Office at 70 Whitehall.

My main interest as many readers know is in social reform rather than electoral reform, since I don’t believe that all of the challenges we face in the modern age can be addressed by changing how we vote for our politicians. However, given today is such a historic day in the UK where we are holding a referendum on how we elect our Members of Parliament, and given many people have yet to decide whether to opt for Alternative Vote or to keep First Past The Post, I will indulge a little and give my last minute take on the debate – perhaps some undecideds will be swayed enough to come off the fence as a result.

It may or may not come as a surprise, but I am a First Past The Post Supporter, for three reasons. Firstly, whilst many historic efforts to extend the franchise and reform our electoral system over the past centuries have been about creating a more inclusive society,  I fear that AV could mean a small minority of people could have a disproportionate impact on politics. The referendum itself is designed in such a way that a small turnout could mean large numbers of people could have their future determined by a few, or by a different region. 

Second, because as we saw in the Labour leadership election last year, it becomes possible under AV for your second or third choice to end up winning, which I think goes very much against the British sense of fairness. This could mean that leaders end up lacking popular support, which is so key when difficult decisions need to be made, because a second or third preference does not carry in my view the same weight as your first preference. How can we tolerate a system in which the losers win?

But lastly, and most importantly, because AV does not really address the problems that its architects say they want to address: the lack of accountability, trust, and general voter apathy towards its elected politicians. There are in my view many ways to achieve this through other reforms under First Past The Post, from mandating open primaries for all political parties to give candidates other than those officially endorsed by central offices the chance to stand for election, to addressing the West Lothian question to reserve English issues for English MPs to vote on, and the strengthening of local powers at parish and ward councillor level.

Indeed sadly it seems the motivation to change the system seems to have a political rather than logical motivation. We shall await today’s result but I for one hope we can adapt what we have which has worked for centuries, rather than bringing in a system irreversibly that does not seem sufficiently well thought through.

So there you have it. Time to choose wisely. I would urge everyone to express their preference in the referendum whatever view they take. Remember: you will only be able to express the one preference. Here’s hoping it stays that way!


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