5 Jun 2011 08:10:09
By Tim Montgomerie
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The Sunday Times (£) reports that the Respublica think tank, established by Phillip Blond, is facing financial problems:
"Sources close to ResPublica, a limited company of which the Cambridge-educated Blond is sole director and owner, have revealed that it is in financial trouble with a raft of redundancies and staff being locked out of their offices last month because the rent had not been paid on time. The first set of unaudited accounts for the period July 2009 to October 2010 arrived at Companies House last week, more than a month overdue. The figures also show that Blond owes the company £38,609 after making payments to himself from its funds... Staff were locked out of its premises, in a block of managed offices three minutes from Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament, for what one source said was almost two weeks. A spokesman for Blond claimed it had been only “several days” and was the result of a technical bank account glitch while Blond was abroad, rather than a lack of funds in the account in question. It was sorted out, with the staff let back in, when Blond returned to Britain."
Earlier this week Mark Wallace of the Crash Bang Wallace blog had reported that a majority of Respublica's staff were at risk of losing their jobs.
Continue reading "Phillip Blond's Respublica think tank in financial difficulties" »
10 Apr 2011 06:16:29
By Jonathan Isaby
Today's Observer contains a preview of a new paper from ResPublica, Philip Blond's think-tank, entitled Right to Retail: Can Localism Save Britain's Small Retailers?
It is not yet online - it is now - but the Observer states that the report - which it is quick to note was commissioned by the Association of Convenience Stores - proposes giving councils the power to impose a tax on out-of-town stores, the proceeds of which "should be used to reduce business rates on small retailers":
"Britain every year is less and less a nation of shopkeepers – assets and ownership are concentrating, finance has become the preserve of the City of London and high streets have converged as though by centralised design. The UK's 8,151 supermarket outlets today account for 97% of total grocery sales, and 76% of groceries are sold by just the four biggest retailers."
Blond himself adds:
"For too long government has viewed big as beautiful in retail competition. That position is unsustainable and we need radical thinking to bring about true competition. The number of traditional grocery stores has been declining over many years. In 1950 there were around 90,000 butchers and greengrocers. By 2000, this figure had plummeted to fewer than 20,000. The number of bakeries has fared only slightly better declining from around 25,000 to 8,000 over the same period."
I'll add a link once the full report is online. Read it here.
15 Nov 2010 07:21:25
By Jonathan Isaby
The latest offering from Philip Blond's think-tank ResPublica is out today - To Buy, To Bid, To Build: Community Rights for an Asset Owning Democracy.
It proposes a "sweeping transfer of ownership from the public sector to community groups" of assets such as libraries, leisure centres, roads and ports:
"Given the extent of budgetary cuts, a large proportion of the public estate is no longer sustainable in its current form. We now face an unprecedented mass divestment of state assets... Asset ownership, whether individual or community – or a combination of both – is never an end in itself, but rather the means to an end. The way in which assets are managed will affect the extent to which underlying goals – greater community and personal self determination and independence, reductions in social division and injustice, a narrowing of the poverty gap, enhanced resilience, aspiration, and prosperity – can be achieved. But what is a necessary precondition for any of the above, in low income communities especially, is a broadening of asset ownership.”
The report's ten recommendations are summarised thus:
- Community right to buy - To provide communities with a window to acquire an asset of potential community value.
- Community right to build - To make it much easier for community projects, which have very strong local support, to get off the ground.
- Community right to try - To help communities take on underused assets (empty shops or derelict land for example) on a temporary basis, transforming blight into benefit.
- Community right to bid - To give communities the chance to run local services themselves.
- Community right to work - To give people on benefits the right to take up part-time paid sessional and short-term work, without disruption to their benefit payments.
- Community right to know - To create the transparency necessary for people in their locality to take meaningful action to build community assets.
- Incentivising community share ownership - To make it attractive for people, including those on low incomes, to purchase a stake in a local community asset.
- Community vouchers - To encourage people to make investments in local social projects on an associational basis.
- Nationwide support for local community agencies - To create local vehicles capable of achieving significant and high impact asset ownership.
- Community reinvestment led by the banks - To create a framework whereby banks and the wider private sector will contribute to creating asset wealth in under-served communities
Click here to download the full report.
The idea of a community right to own under-utilised state assets was first proposed in the Sixty Million Citizens document in 2003, written by the Renewing One Nation unit which became the Centre for Social Justice.
6 Jul 2010 17:14:35
Philip Blond of Respublica has highlighted an increasing emergency use of Britain's 65 food banks.
"The reasons people find themselves in a scenario where they or their families face genuine hunger are varied but in rough order of importance they are:
- benefit delay
- low income,
- family break up, and
- mental or physical ill-health.
In those areas where food banks operate, front line professional carers give vouchers for those they assess in real need to access their food banks. Social workers, health visitors, citizens advice staff and housing support and youth offending teams all can refer, but one of the most crucial referrers who assess and identify genuine and crisis need is the job centre. Yet here staff, many of whom want to help their service-users in this way, have been forbidden by the previous government from giving out food vouchers...
According to information from the Trussel Trust - one of the charities behind the [food bank] network - in the last 12 months over 41,000 people across the UK received emergency food from these charity foodbanks, a 70% increase on the previous year. Of these, 35% (14,350 people) were referred to the foodbank due to benefit delay."
There appear to be two key problems here:
(1) The benefits system and its failure to pay people promptly;
(2) The last government's ban on job centres making referrals to voluntary sector help.
Over to you Mr Duncan Smith.
18 May 2010 07:26:57
A new report from Respublica, the think tank of Philip Blond, focuses on helping social entrepreneurs. It argues that only 1% of Britain's 238,000 social enterprises receive the support they need.
The report by Asheem Singh - The Venture Society - calls for a network of 'community lablets' across the country that would act as "incubators for new social enterprises by providing the basic infrastructure, advice and funding to dramatically boast the number of start-up enterprises."
Other recommendations of the report:
- Social Labs would get the power to approve new flexible venture-lite structures for social start ups funded by community lablets.
- The creation of a Bureaucracy Task Force that would cut the burden of regulation on early stage social entrepreneurs.
- A switch in funding from existing social enterprise programmes to provide greater support towards start-up costs and local infrastructure.
- In the longer term, the report backs the development of a capitalised social investment bank, targeted tax breaks for new investment vehicles and a community reinvestment act.
- Formalise the process by which service delivering Whitehall departments pay for the demand reduction benefits of social ventures.
- Place the responsibility for implementing this ambitious programme and new structure of community lablets and social hubs with the Cabinet Office.
The report concludes by recognising the dire state of the public finances and claiming that these changes can be made from within existing departmental budgets.
Full PDF here.
1 Apr 2010 14:31:47
Over the last few days ConservativeHome has been surveying readers and 'influentials' about the quality of the London think tanks. Tomorrow we'll publish how readers voted. Today we publish the results of voting by 94 influential journalists, parliamentarians, bloggers and other thought-leaders.
The Centre for Social justice was voted the think tank that has had the biggest influence on the Cameron project
The CSJ only just beat Policy Exchange. The CSJ won 40 votes and PX won 36 votes. Third, a long way behind, was Respublica with 5 votes.
The CSJ has played a leading role in David Cameron's biggest idea, "the Big Society". Seventy CSJ policy ideas have been adopted by the Conservative Party.
Policy Exchange was voted the think tank that was most effective overall
It won 33 votes. The CSJ won 29 votes. The TaxPayers' Alliance won 18 votes. PX's most recent success was its publication arguing against NI rises.
The TaxPayers' Alliance was voted the think tank likely to cause most difficulty for any Conservative government
It won a massive 55 of the votes in this section. Next came Reform with 10 votes and then the Centre for Policy Studies with 8 votes. The TPA recently produced a manifesto that set it against key parts of the Conservative programme. The Left's argument that it is a Tory front organisation is not believed by our panel of influentials.
The Adam Smith Institute was voted the think tank best at developing new talent
The ASI won 18 votes. Policy Exchange won 16 votes. The TaxPayers' Alliance and the CSJ both won 14 votes.
28 Mar 2010 15:31:51
Phillip Blond, founder of the Respublica think tank, launches his new book tomorrow - 'Red Tory'.
The book is an attack on the left and the right. He argues that libertarian individualism and centralised socialism are different sides of the same coin, distracting us from what matters most, civil society:
“Under the auspices of both the state and the market, a vast body of disenfranchised and disengaged citizens has been constituted. They have been stripped of their culture by the Left and their capital by the Right, and in such nakedness they enter the trading floor of life with only their labour to sell. Proletarianised and segregated, the individuals created by the market-state settlement can never really form a genuine society: they lack the social capital to create such an association and the economic basis to sustain it.”
Ultimately, he claims, Margaret Thatcher failed to create a “free, diverse and propertied society” although she did kick “down the rotten infrastructure of the postwar settlement”. She failed because she was a liberal rather than a conservative.
His book, now on sale, sets out the following policies*:
- Give employees ownership of public services;
- Scrap school catchment areas to enable real choice for parents;
- New small regional banks;
- New economic model for the poor;
- Scrap pensioner tax relief for the poor and redirect money into asset creation programme for the poor;
- Convert Government bank shares into investment vouchers for the poor;
- Transfer Council assets to local communities;
- Community Land Trust;
- Jobless to work as volunteers without losing benefits;
- Time-banking: Plan for volunteers to exchange skills with time as a currency;
- Adjustable business rates: poor areas given power to cut business rates;
- Small cheap loans for the poor;
- Child Trust Funds (CFTs) to be enhanced;
- Scrap Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) to fund financial literacy classes in school;
- Support micro finance;
- Break up big banks;
- Create Necessities Price Index (NPI) to reflect true costs facing the poor;
- Mutualise the Post Office;
- Force banks to invest in social enterprises.
* Twenty policies were promised in the press release but only 19 were listed.
9 Mar 2010 12:13:10
Damian Green MP, Shadow Home Affairs Minister, gave a speech to Respublica last week that argued that civil liberties were not a middle class issue but concerned all classes, not least the poor. Extracts from his remarks are published below.
"There are many aspects of the modern Conservative Party which are significant changes from the Conservatism of recent years. Some of these changes are rediscoveries of the best aspects of historic Conservatism, and one of the most important is our determination to help the poorest and most disadvantaged. You can call this One Nation Conservatism, Tory Reform, Compassionate Conservatism or even Red Toryism, but whatever the name it represents the same decent instinct: that we have a duty to help those who need help, and that such help is the mark of a civilised society.
An essential part of the help we need to give the disadvantaged is the personal space, ability to control their own lives and freedom from the dictates of a nannying state that add up to what we call “civil liberties.” On the surface this is a counter-intuitive argument. Surely civil liberties are only of concern to a few middle-class do-gooders with more compassion than sense? Surely what the people living on our toughest estates demand is a more controlled society to protect them from their neighbours? Civil liberties, the argument runs, are a luxury item for politicians, not to be contemplated in a recession when fear of crime and disorder is rampant.
Continue reading "'Poor people need civil liberties too'" »
16 Feb 2010 07:53:47
Respublica, the think tank of 'Red Tory' Philip Blond, is the latest to launch a blog. It has been named The Disraeli Room. Mr Blond's first post focuses on the big idea of "ownership".
Many think tanks featured by ThinkTankCentral already have established blogs:
Policy Exchange and Reform don't have their own blogs but they do have accounts on CentreRight.com and probably reach wider audiences via that channel. Reform's contributions are here and PX's here.
31 Oct 2009 18:36:00
"The Ownership State - Restoring excellence, innovation and ethos to the public services"(PDF)
Author: Philip Blond
Publication date: October 2009
The report acknowledges that public services in Britain are not performing as they should with a real terms funding increase of 55% over the last ten years but a fall in productivity of 3.4% over the same period. The report calls for radical action with social enterprises in the guise of "civic companies" being allowed to replace the State as providers of these services. The civic companies will be managed and owned by front-line workers and will provide an alternative to both the public sector and the conventional private sector.