But who actually needs this Dave?

The ongoing campaign for a social investment wholesale bank is a Beanbags favourite. Unsurprisingly, the bullshit content in the debate has not been diminished by the intervention of David Cameron.

According to Dave: “We’re going to bring in a new Big Society Bank so that social enterprises have access to the start-up finance they need to bid for government contracts.”

But Futurebuilders was set up to do that and couldn’t give all its cash away. There’s also plenty of other organisations offering loans to social enterprises. I’d pose the same question to Dave as I pose to Labour government supporters of this scheme: who are these social enterprises who have viable plans to make use of loan finance but can’t get that finance from existing sources? I’m yet to read a sensible theoretical hypothesis for why this bank is needed, let alone anything backed by evidence.

Clearly this launch of this bank, whatever it ends up being called, would be an opportunity for the most self important sector leaders to run round Whitehall with their hands in the air in a football style celebration of their lobbying prowess. Clearly it’s good for governments of whatever colour to indulge the self importance of sector leaders as cheaply and painlessly as possible. I’m keen for either sector leaders or politicians to explain what this has love-in got to do with tackling social need.


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5 responses to “But who actually needs this Dave?

  1. I appreciate your point about Futurebuilders – not least because I’m opposed to the marketisation of public services. But I assume the purpose of the SIWB is to provide loan finance at lower interest rates than commercial lenders, no?


  2. beanbagsandbullsh1t

    Well, this isn’t something that’s been prominently mentioned so far – although it’s definitely a possible argument.

    As you hint at, the Futurebuilders scheme is about providing loan finance as to motor for a particular political agenda. Unlike you, I don’t necessarily oppose that agenda (I’m possibly one of the last people in the Blairite ‘what works’ camp on this one) but I’m unconvinced that its relative success or failure will be greatly affected by more or less money being in a shiny new social loan pot.

    If government-backed development support and government support for organisations getting contracts is in place, I’m baffled as to why to companies would be unable to access finance from existing sources.

    Maybe there are good reasons but they’re currently under-explained.


  3. There probably is the ability to access loan finance, albeit at higher interest rates.

    I think I’d also be in the ‘what works’ camp if it was actually about what works.


  4. beanbagsandbullsh1t

    I’d accept that, for some in the Blairite camp from the mid-1990s onwards, ‘what works’ was based on a belief in the mystical powers of business to somehow sprinkle the magic dust of the market on public services and make everything all right.

    It’s worrying that the major parties currently seem to be passing the magic beans from the for profit private sector – ‘it’s ok, just bring in some clever consultants to write a new strategy’ seems to have been slightly downgraded as a stock response to perceived public service failure – to the third sector generally and social enterprise specifically.

    But the Blairites essential diagnosis – that some public services were being delivered badly for reasons that went beyond lack of financial resources – was correct.

    And ‘what works’ in the conventional sense – work out what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, what it’s meant to achieve, then trying to find the best available way of doing it – isn’t the worst starting point for service delivery.


  5. “the Blairites essential diagnosis – that some public services were being delivered badly for reasons that went beyond lack of financial resources – was correct”

    Yes, and this has much to do with tacit knowledge – the way to actually improve services, then, is to involve users and providers in the design of services.

    “What works” was a way of conceding ground to rent-seeking businesses. The growth of the public services industry has been quite staggering.


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