The Big Society Bank should settle for nothing less than £5bn from the bankers

Rumours in Westminster and the City suggest
a deal in the making: the banks make a significant payment to the Big Society
. In return, ministers shelve ideas about new taxes and restricting
bonuses. I have some advice for the negotiators.

Firstly, this is likely to be a very good deal
for the bankers. Five billion pounds sounds generous but would amount to only
70p for every pound paid in bonuses last year.

Ministers might also recognise the figure.
It is, the Charity Commission says, the gap in third sector funding resulting from local authority expenditure
cuts. Settle for nothing less.

The unclaimed assets, which are already
destined for the Big Society Bank, must not be included in the calculations. These never
“belonged” to the banks any more than the cash in a post office
savings account “belongs” to the post office.

Setting aside the primary questions about
the morality and fairness of such a deal, I am encouraged by government’s
apparent and implicit recognition that something must be done. Let it be

Local and national spending cuts are
threatening to devastate third sector services for the most vulnerable.
Preventative early action work is particularly suffering as the urgent is
prioritised above the important – a desperately misguided “economy”
which will swiftly and inevitably increase the need for essential and expensive
acute services.

Capitalising the bank with much more than can be drawn
immediately from unclaimed assets and then enabling it to spend on sustaining
preventative work with those most at risk will avoid incurring much higher and,
by then, unavoidable costs – social, financial and ultimately political –
within the lifetime of this government.

And be clear, the new Big Society Bank must
spend as well as lend. I’m an enthusiast for social enterprise and a
of social investment. The unclaimed assets must, as already planned, be
ring-fenced and lent for this purpose. But many essential services for
the most
vulnerable will never be self-sustaining. It is these services that are
likely to survive a harsh winter, and it is the public funding of this
that marks out our economy as that of a civilised and compassionate

A good deal hangs on your best judgement. Be bold.

David Robinson is the co-founder of Community Links, a charity that helps disadvantaged local people

  • stolen stolen

    Criticise as much as you dare but not as much as you want.

    Who dares win, sometimes.

    Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

    If those who should say it do not, then who will?

    All answers but the solution is that the sector must develop and fund its own criticism arm that is not subject to any kind of interference from within and without.

  • Ivor Sutton

    Yes, everyone talks about Diversity. It’s time that the workplace enables Diversity to talk back – for the sake of ‘business’ and its longevity.

    For me, Diversity is about enabling ‘difference’, Vision and progress to conquer the challenges of today, and tomorrow. That’s why it’s important – that’s why it’s a fundamental tool for our workplace… and for success in lives.

    I think of professionals who may hire an assistant who may be culturally in-tune with them and their workforce, but fails to think ‘outside the box’ when ‘business’ desperately needs it. This is a tough lesson. In business, second chances don’t always come around.

    So, what’s the moral of this. The moral, in my view, is to reiterate my previous statement… “yes, everyone talks about diversity… it’s time that the workplace enables Diversity to talkback… for the sake of ‘business’ and its longevity.