Pioneers Post
features
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  • user warning: UPDATE command denied to user '408302_semagad'@'10.187.244.83' for table 'cache_filter' query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>\'It\'s quite scary when you get 20 emails in the space of half an hour,\' says Phillip Blond as he checks his BlackBerry for perhaps the third time between sitting down and waiting for the entrée.</p>\n<p>This is the first interview of two for today for the director of think tank ResPublica. The other is for the international edition of the influential German weekly Der Spiegel.</p>\n<p>I ask Blond, referred to as the \'Red Tory\' and credited as one of the greatest influences on David Cameron\'s social policy, if his days are always so busy. \'Increasingly so,\' he replies.</p>\n<p>We are at the Bleeding Heart Bistro in, Farringdon. The deep burgundy walls enclose a selection of people in well-cut suits. The cellar boasts 450 wines; the interesting bottles on the top shelf of the bar are adorned with a fine layer of dust.</p>\n<p>The last time I heard Blond speak it was in equally aesthetically pleasing, although less intimate, surroundings. It was at the Liberal Club late last year when ResPublica was launched by Conservative leader David Cameron.</p>\n<p>Now two weeks before he speaks at Voice10, the UK\'s largest social enterprise conference, this man who may well be shaping policy come the other side of the election, tells me his greatest concern for the sector is getting more investment into social businesses to grow individual enterprises and to grow the movement.</p>\n<p>He proposes allowing high rates of capital returns to investors and incentivising investment through the tax system - for example, providing tax incentives for investing in your local social enterprise.</p>\n<p>All this ties in to his vision for a moralised market that \'incentivises good behaviour and penalises bad\', where the market is \'not an end in itself but has got society as its end\'.</p>\n<p>As our delicious, thick, rich, fish soup - Blond\'s recommendation - arrives, I ask him whether social return on investment and triple bottom line reporting have a place in his market of the future. \'They will play a part,\' he says.</p>\n<p>Blond is hopeful that - if the Tories win - social enterprises will gain more council contracts thanks to simpler procurement processes that also take into account the benefits of employing local people.</p>\n<p>He paints a vivid picture of a local addiction support organisation run by a woman whose \'son/daughter/sister/ brother\' died from drug abuse, who is passionate and knows the local area\'s needs, struggling through an 80-page tender with hundreds of pages of appendices, and contrasts this with large private companies which have trained people filling in tenders day in, day out.</p>\n<p>\'Nick Hurd [the shadow third sector minister] very clearly recognises that\'s a problem I\'m very confident change will be on the cards,\' Blond says.</p>\n<p>\'I\'m most hopeful that the barriers to market participation will be lowered, that there will be equal competition with the dominant private sector players and the ways in which you can scale up will be open for the first time.\'</p>\n<p>Blond speaks confidently, but the first opportunity Cameron\'s Conservatives had to show their support for Blond\'s ideas, in their draft manifesto chapter on the NHS, was a bit of a disappointment.</p>\n<p>There was no mention of Blond\'s big ideas on the importance of mutualisation and public services run by civil associations made up of professionals and the public. It did, however, promise the creation of foundation trusts to run health services. I ask Blond if this goes far enough for his liking and his answer is bullet-like. \'No it doesn\'t,\' he says. \'But I think it will go further. Manifestos aren\'t the high water of policy; they\'re an expression of what people think is deliverable.\'</p>\n<p>\'So do you think more is deliverable in the next government?\'</p>\n<p>\'Yes ... I get a very sympathetic hearing and I\'m sure as time goes on such ideas will appear.\'</p>\n<p>The difference between the civil associations proposed by Blond and NHS staff\'s existing right to request to set up a social enterprise rests in the degree of power. \'Right to request is a lot of work for not much return,\' says Blond. \'It is very much running things according to someone else\'s pre-existing agenda.</p>\n<p>\'We need to promise far greater control of the agenda and we need to promise to return part of the savings back to the workers and the community. This is so that professionals feel their vocation is making a difference to improve public services and so that the people who need those services feel empowered.\'</p>\n<p>Quid pro quo is key in Blond\'s thinking. He doesn\'t believe in New Deal for Communities-style consultation which is \'often rubber stamping what others have decided\', instead he believes in ownership stakes for communities.</p>\n<p>\'We need to end the something-for-nothing culture and have a something-for-something culture,\' says Blond. This includes some pretty radical ideas that he is in the process of working through.</p>\n<p>Blond wants complete transparency so that local communities can see exactly what is spent on them and take control of that money where they feel services are lacking, either by providing the services themselves or by finding new providers.</p>\n<p>\'Local budgets create a constituency where none existed before and empowers that constituency with money - I think that\'s very different from what\'s gone on before,\' he says.</p>\n<p>\'Often on housing estates, particularly in Scotland, the local authority raises rents as a central government cash cow to fund other aspects of budgets.\'</p>\n<p>Instead, Blond would like to see some sort of equity stake given to individual tenants and communal buildings run collectively with the income shared throughout the community.</p>\n<p>\'I see no reason why communal ownership [of buildings in estates] couldn\'t be social enterprises. In fact, they will be social enterprises,\' he says.</p>\n<p>\'Development trusts are ideal organisations to play an intermediary role to show how it can be done and I\'ll be looking to the Development Trusts Association to help deliver ideas and to help scale up the agenda.\'</p>\n<p>At this point, with Blond\'s coq au vin fast disappearing, I ask if he is confident that the Conservatives have a strong enough moral compass and enough empathy with poor people to see through such a radical plan of reform when the inevitable stumbling blocks, setbacks and failed community enterprises begin.</p>\n<p>Blond\'s response is that you \'need to create resilience within policy\' by accepting that \'it is a condition of success that some things will fail\'. He also says he would start with small quick wins, for example, handing over the gardening and decorating budgets on estates.</p>\n<p>Finally, he points to an ambition he shares with Cameron. \'I want class politics to end, but that has to involve a completely different approach to poverty and that has to involve creating an asset effect for the poor,\' he says.</p>\n<p>\'The reason the poor are poor is because they don\'t own anything. As such, they will always be subject to massive inequality. The less you own and the higher the price of assets rise, the higher the barrier becomes.</p>\n<p>\'If Cameron wants to bring an end to class politics, and I think he does, this will be very important for him to address.\'</p>\n<p>And what if Labour wins the election?</p>\n<p>\'We\'re already an influence on this government,\' says Blond. \'The ownership commission [a government-backed body exploring accountability of public services] references us three times and I\'m told our work is well discussed at Number 10. I\'ve also given a briefing to the PM\'s strategy unit.</p>\n<p>\'This new form of thinking where everybody has a stake in society could be adopted by the left or the right and I would be honoured by either.\'</p>\n', created = 1481416264, expire = 1481502664, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:154a5e4f6c324d26281680e3fe3af2c3' in /mnt/stor2-wc1-dfw1/408302/www.socialenterpriselive.com/web/content/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
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Lunch with... Phillip Blond

1 February 2010

Could a stronger social enterprise movement help to destroy class politics? Chrisanthi Giotis and the 'Red Tory' philosophise and prophesise over lunch at the Bleeding Heart

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