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Francis Maude highlights need for an independent voluntary sector in debate on 'Third sector'

Maude_francis "New Labour has from its outset had an extraordinarily centralising and controlling approach to government. Any idea that that approach might change with the new Prime Minister would have been incredible to any seasoned observer, as it was always clear that he was the big clunking centraliser at the core of new Labour. It was always certain that once he got his hands on the job that he had craved for so long, those tendencies would be wholly unconstrained. I have always thought that his approach was summed up by the worst of all phrases from the new Labour lexicon—“earned autonomy”. When translated, that means, “You can do whatever you like, as long as we agree with it. You have no real autonomy or freedom, and you are always on the end of a lead, with master ready to twitch the string at the least sign of independence.” That is why so much of the Government’s language on the third sector does not ring true.  It is in the nature of the third sector that it should be diverse, dispersed, vigorously independent and capable of innovation. A voluntary organisation’s strength is its closeness to its service users and its ability to provide a much more personal, responsive, differentiated, flexible and swift service than the traditional organs of the state. That independence, the allowing of which requires trust and optimism from the Government, is key. But I am afraid that it is and has been under threat from, or has been eroded by, the Government."

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