I was in London on Wednesday for a series of five meetings, starting with a breakfast seminar organised by NCVO at the headquarters of The Guardian at Kings Place. Like most of the attendees, I was looking forward to hearing the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, John Denham, and very disappointed when he pulled out of the event at the last minute. In his place we heard from Stuart Hoggan, Director for Local Democracy & Participation at the Department for Communities and Local Government. Stuart talked about the strengths of civil society but how social capital is being critically impacted by the recession. He spoke in detail about the DCLG empowerment agenda and stressed that John Denham has strongly endorsed the programme of work he inherited. Stuart also addressed the role of the Third Sector and explained that DCLG was reviving its Third Sector Partnership Board. He said the interface between central and local government would be a key debate in the forthcoming general election. The discussion following Stuart’s presentation demonstrated a contradiction between the Third Sector telling central government to get out of the way of local government and then saying that local government is not doing what it should and asking central government to make it do so. It was an interesting session but I didn’t feel we learned anything new and it was a shame not to have been able to hear the Secretary of State himself on these matters.
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