This afternoon Croydon North MP Malcolm Wicks and I led a delegation from the Council and the local community and voluntary sector to meet Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society (the organisations represented were Faiths Together in Croydon, Croydon Arc, Croydon Voluntary Action, the Samaddoon Somali Development Organisation and Croydon Black and Minority Ethnic Forum).
With the Prime Minister having given a key speech on his Big Society initiative this morning - about which I will post seperately shortly - it was a great opportunity to discuss with the Minister the state of the third sector in Croydon and the opportunities and threats it faces.
We addressed the painful decisions that the Council took in relation to core funding for some organisations but also the positive work it is doing on community budgeting and commissioning more services from the third sector; about the need for a change of attitude from government both central and local in terms of how they deal with the third sector; and about the need for greater clarity from the government over what help is available and how to access it.
Malcolm made the important point that this idea must not become politicised. Support for a strong third sector has philosophical roots on both sides of the political fence - on the centre right, Burke's little platoons; on the left, the co-operative movement. Croydon is blessed with a strong third sector and in these difficult times politicians of all persuasions, both national and local, need to do all they can to support it.