Cameron's 'Big Society Network' charity taking government money despite 'independence'
Is the Big Society Network truly independent? A new Freedom of Information response hints otherwise
The Big Society Network, which was launched on the back of David Cameron’s “Big Society” pseudo-philosophy, has previously asserted that it is an autonomous third-sector organisation, independent of state-funding. It has had to shrug off perceptions that it is a ‘Tory organisation’.
But a Freedom of Information request from September 2012 indicated that the Network has received nearly a quarter of a million pounds from government since its formation. In fact, the Network had received exactly £245,332.66 from the Cabinet Office from May 2010 to the end of July 2011.
The Big Society Network’s website states how it is funded: “The Network is supported by a combination of foundation funds, private donations and business investors”. Have we forgotten our glasses? Where’s the mention that the Network receives government money?
In the Freedom of Information response, the Cabinet Office said the “payments are in relation to support the Big Society Network has provided to the Cabinet Office across a number of Big Society Initiatives”.
Speaking to The Commentator, the Big Society Network told us that the money was used for the “Big Society Awards” and campaigns to assist government in its attempt to cut down obesity, and other “social projects”.
So perhaps we’re not getting the cuts in government spending, specifically in advertising and campaigning, that have been trumpeted. When government should be slashing spending across the board, it is instead sponsoring third-sector organisations’ award ceremonies.
David Cameron’s vision for a ’Big Society’ was a “national campaign for social change” that is “run by the people, for the people”. But government isn’t the “people” and government money should not be used to bolster this fledgling organisation.
The Big Society Network has always been on the defensive about its relationship with government with founding CEO Paul Twivy saying the organisation “doesn’t want government funding” because that would compromise its independence.
Regardless of how open the Network has had to become because of the perception that it is a propped-up, government-led organisation, the Big Society Network’s claim to be an independent charity is somewhat muddied by meddling government and the strings that could come with Cabinet Office funding.
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