The government’s Big Society tsar has suggested that local authority managers work part-time and use the extra time to volunteer
Writing in his blog, Lord Wei suggested that such a move would cut local government wage bills as well as bring the public sector closer to other sectors and improve skills.
Responding to recent reports that the Big Society agenda is at risk because of public sector budget cuts, the peer made the suggestion as one of three ways local authorities could support the Big Society idea and help the third sector manage the reduction in grants and funding.
As well as awarding more contracts to community groups and encouraging business to fill the gap, councils could “have a serious look at their core costs – not just the salaries of middle management and their CEOs but also what hours they do”, he said.
“Middle and senior staff in local authorities can be invited to go to three or four days a week, and even be connected to opportunities whether to be self-employed, run and franchise business, or get involved in their local community, alongside working part-time.
“This would have the additional benefit of bringing in expertise from other worlds and drawing the local public sector and other sectors closer, as well as potentially creating jobs in externally run organisations which local authority staff become involved with or start up.”
However, the suggestion put forward by Lord Wei, who recently announced that he could only do his unpaid adviser role part-time because he needed to earn a living, has been criticised by shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell as farcical.
“This is just more proof that these Tory ministers just don’t live in the real world,” he said. “First Nat Wei tells us that he needs to cut back on his volunteering so that he can get more paid work, now he’s asking council staff to run down their paid work so that they can concentrate on volunteering. It’s no wonder that the contradictory muddle surrounding the Big Society is descending into farce.”