‘Cuts could kill off Big Society’

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A CHARITY leader has warned that new funding for social enterprises could come too late to save services from austerity cuts.

Andy Grout, chief executive of Milton Keynes Play Association, told the Citizen of his concerns at the launch of a new fund on Thursday.

Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, was at The Buszy, in Elder Gate, for the south east regional launch of a new bank called Big Society Capital.

The new body could eventually help to direct £1,800million into so-called social enterprises.

Social enterprises are businesses that exist to meet social goals and include charities with trading organisations. There are believed to be some 1,400 social enterprises in Milton Keynes alone.

But Mr Grout warned: “My concern is that many charities will fall by the wayside before this new money becomes available. There might not be anyone left by the time it is ready.”

He called on businesses, the voluntary sector and councils to work together to access new funding.

The meeting was told only a minority of social enterprises are currently ready to bid for money and there is a need for a public awareness campaign. Much of the £600million in Big Society Capital comes from dormant bank accounts.

But Mr Hurd told the Citizen the social enterprise sector had ‘huge potential’ to create new jobs and deliver contracts for the public sector.

He added: “No other country is doing this and I know they are watching. It is groundbreaking and we have to educate people.”

He added that Milton Keynes was “up there with the best of them” when it comes to social enterprises.

Rita Spada, of Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the move as “really exciting and long overdue”.