On Thursday evening I attended the Voice 4 Change AGM. Voice 4 Change is the national umbrella organisation for black and minority ethnic voluntary sector organisations in England. Voluntary Arts and Voice 4 Change are working in partnership to support BME voluntary arts groups. The keynote speaker at the Voice 4 Change AGM was the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hilary Benn. He spoke about a range of current issues affecting the voluntary and community sector. He said the Lobbying Bill threatens a fundamental right to express a view to those we elect. He described the ‘graph of doom’ for local authority spending and pointed out that the largest funding cuts have been felt in the poorest communities. Hilary Benn noted that the pace and scale of changes in immigration, most recently from Eastern Europe, have created tensions – particularly with previous immigrants – but he was encouraged by the way communities still come together and work together. The voluntary and community sector is a lifeline, bringing people together. He spoke about the need to rediscover a contributory society, the campaign for a living wage and said the greatest challenge of all is our ageing population.
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