Listening to Radio 4 on Sunday night, my non-work thoughts were broken by social enterprise featuring on Westminster Hour. The Conservatives are releasing their Social Enterprise Policy Group report this week, the recommendations in which will include social enterprise zones (in deprived areas) and tax breaks within those zones for investors (to allow more equity / patient capital), as well as some planning exemptions for brownfield development for social enterprises. No great surprises there for anyone who heard Oliver Letwin speak in January at Voice 07 where he talked about, well, zones and tax breaks (and patient finance). But it keeps it on the agenda, and the ideas neither massively excite nor appal me. So they’re probably quite sensible.
The programme is worth listening to again, not least because after speaking to the Conservatives (Greg Clark), it then speaks to Cherry Read of the Social Enterprise Coalition, and then the new Minister for the Third Sector. She said the Tory plans were unambitious, and that Labour were yet to really grasp that social enterprise was about changing mainstream business, not just about charities breaking even. Phil Hope, the new minister, then came on to say that, well, they did understand that, dismissed the Tory plans ("uncosted tax breaks", "no new money" social enterprise viewed by Tories as "cheap alternative") before talking about procurement, Futurebuilders/Capacitybuilders, voice as well as delivery and a bit more procurement (3rd sector orgs should bid jointly or bid to be subcontractors etc for big contracts).
Nothing revelatory to any sector-heads, with the usual 55,000 figure trotted out, and the usual arguments (Labour are bureaucratic, paperwork-heavy and centralist, Conservatives are promising without costing and looking to abdicate responsibility for public services; sector demands more from both…). It was interesting to hear SeedCo being rolled out to question the whole social enterprise concept. Regular readers will remember various people (including myself) putting them to the sword in previous posts (here and here); to quote one US blog, "Seedco [are] one of the least informed and most inept players to have dabbled in the nonprofit Social Enterprise field". But they have featured in a Wall Street journal article, so that’s presumably why Radio 4 picked them. Hey ho.
It’s not a podcast, so you have a week to listen to the programme; if you miss it, why not try out some of the snippet 3 minute Social Enterprise podcasts available from Kibble. Although there is slightly irritating ambient music behind all of them (at least the ones I’ve listened to), there’s some decent people they’ve picked up at various events: Ed Miliband, Tim Smit and US legend Jerr Boschee.