>I’ve started blogging on my magazine, Regeneration & Renewal’s new blog. I thought I’d post them here too. What follows is commentary from a voluntary umbrella body’s conference.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
R&R here in Leicester tonight at the British Association of Settlements and Social Action Centres (Bassac) conference. So far, I can report that handheld voting devices are all the rage for community regenerators. And why not? It’s community empowerment in action! Voting electronically, Who-Wants-To-Be-a-Millionaire-style, went down a storm at the Urban Forum conference earlier this year and now Bassac are at it. Sadly, it was not a cool £1million (much needed as it would be) up for grabs but rather what those working for voluntary and community groups consider policy priorities for those working in the sector and Bassac.
Thirty-eight per cent of the some 200 delegates casting votes thought the sector must focus on designing funding plans for whole organisations, rather than individual projects they may offer. This would be a way for groups to hand out money to projects as they see fit. This idea was dismissed by some people, who argued there was no point in designing funding plans when funding itself was so uncertain.
Around 20 per cent want Bassac’s priorities to revolve around “challenging commissioners to invest in the sector for more effective public services”. During 2009-10, 20 per cent of delegates also want Bassac to improve relationships between community organisations and local goverment. Bleeding obvious? Perhaps, but the fact that the same issues keep cropping up shows government policy is not yet reaching deep enough to make community sector workers feel they are not “the child” in the relationship between them and statutory organisations, as one delegate pointed out.
Tommorrow, Sadiq Khan of the Department for Communities and Local Government and Kevin Brennan of the Office of the Third Sector will (hopefully) be held to account for these popular and other long-running gripes. Word on the ground is realistic. Some delegates doubt that ministers will have anything of substance to say. “This is New Labour – they never say anything outrageous,” grumbles one.
There are also mutterings that there may be an update on plans for the £70 million Community Builders’ Fund, which aims to help groups improve their ability to run local facilities, services and become more self-sufficient. But some are convinced that this will be just another “non-committal” address by the Government…