November 24, 2009 12:00 AM

Today, Jenny Willott, Liberal Democrat Shadow Charities Spokesperson, accused the Conservative party's 'small state, big society' vision as a means to get the charitable sector to underwrite the costs of delivering public services.

The attack on Tory headline party policy came at a keynote speech from Miss Willott, at the NCVO Infrastructure National Partnership Conference 2009.

Commenting, Jenny said:

"The Tories' small state big society vision is a thinly-veiled part of a traditional Tory tax-cutting agenda.

"David Cameron wants to handover responsibility for delivering public services to charities.

"The Conservatives want the UK to develop a low tax US-style philanthropic culture overnight. This is fanciful and decidedly dangerous.

"As well as potentially leaving huge gaps in provision, charities will be left underwriting the costs of public services. This can only damage the sector and the very people that charities are best placed to help.

"The Tories want government to hand pick social entrepreneurs and parachute them in to lead community programmes. But this could disenfranchise local volunteers and undermine the independence of community voluntary organisations.

"The sector can and should play a much greater role in the provision of public services. But this should be driven by local and community innovators working in the sector, not by Tory Ministers based in Whitehall.

"This type of innovation must be allowed to develop gradually. This means safeguarding grant funding and creating a level playing field so that charities can properly compete for, and win, contracts against their private sector counterparts."

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