Headlines: July 25th, 2011

Opportunities for a “new social contract” between civil society and government could be lost if urgent action isn’t taken to break down barriers to joint working. This call comes from Civil Exchange, a newly launched think tank which aims to help government and civil society work better together to find fresh solutions, unlock new potential and provide innovative services which meet different needs.

The call comes at a critical time following publication of the Open Government White Paper which charts a new direction for public services shifting power from Whitehall to town halls and communities. The voluntary sector, mutuals formed by ex public sector employees, as well as private companies will play a much larger part in delivering public services in the future. Now is the time to re-think the ground rules.

The full scale development of Community Budgets which will address cross-cutting social issues by bringing local solutions to local problems will bring new opportunities for joint working. These changes will require new funding and commissioning arrangements. A particular feature will be the progressive shift in the balance of government spending away from acute to early action.

Civil Exchange’s founding Director Caroline Slocock said: “Civil Dialogue contains many different perspectives and views but what stands out is that many believe this is a pivotal moment. There are fears that the impact of recent spending cuts and longstanding barriers to effective working could lead to serious damage. But it is also recognised that this is a moment in which a “new social contract” could be forged between government and civil society, provided urgent action is taken. Some of the changes need government action, for example, greater clarity about the purpose of the Big Society and new commissioning and funding arrangements.”