Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

‘Big Society’: Volunteers To Replace Paid Public Service Staff.

with 5 comments

Volunteers Help Out After Railway Cuts.

Some weeks ago the Bookseller reported that (Here. )

Public sector trade union Unison is to ballot its Southampton City Council library members about strike action, following plans to replace full-time staff with volunteers.

The Conservative-run council announced in its 2010/11 budget plan that it intends to replace six full-time staff with volunteers, with at least one of the city’s libraries set to be run entirely by
volunteer staff.

Unison regional organiser Andy Straker said: “There is real anger from our members over this issue. They feel that management and councillors are devaluing their skills and experience.”

This has developed into a full dispute. Librarians struck on the 21st fo June. Reports from UNISON – Here. The BBC states that the most recent strike has been postponed for further negotiations to take place (Here).

The key point is that,

The council plans to recruit members of the public to carry out unpaid work in the libraries to cover seven librarian posts and save money.

PM David  Cameron’s Big Society has been described by Labour Leadership Contender Ed Milliband as,

a return to Victorian philanthropy, with little role for the state. “This is essentially a 19th-century or US-style view of our welfare state – which is cut back the welfare state and somehow civic society will thrive,” he said. (Here)

The Big Society means shoe-string public services that is clear. Outside of  prosperous middle-class areas it hard to see many people ‘volunteering’ for these roles.

But there are other sources of unpaid labour.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has frequently pointed out that Workfare (backed by New Labour as well as the Liberal-Tory Coalition) will be used as a source of ‘volunteers’ to plug gaps in public provision and help drive wages down.

We await the Government’s Work Programme with interest.


Written by Andrew Coates

July 28, 2010 at 10:31 am

5 Responses

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  1. A step in the right direction at last!

    Nice chatty volunteers will replace surly, pig-ignorant and totally unhelpful public servants.

    The next step is for the EDL to replace the police and for care-in-the-community to fill jobs at the Foregn Office.

    Hywel Nostrodamus

    July 28, 2010 at 11:06 am

  2. Workfare wouldn’t be used to keep libraries running. library staff are useful and workfare,would have people doing things that are completely pointless because Workfare itself like all schemes of the last government is completely pointless.


    July 28, 2010 at 12:52 pm

  3. Recently I have been been out on my months work placement as part of my Flexible New Deal. I had to sort my own placement out so arranged it with a volunteer organisation I new and really enjoyed my months placement.

    But I have to say from a jobsearch/jobfinding point of view a months full-time work has been a disaster as everything has gone to pot due to lack of time, its frankly impossible I’ve had application forms turn up that could only be completed on time if I took the day off work as they turned up so late, plus no time to research companies you are applying with, additionally where I am on placement is so short staffed that as I am often left by myself all day to run the entire place they would have to close for me to go to interview, etc.

    I don’t think the whole notion of charities replacing the state has been thought through, as I have been hearing from the inside on placement some alarming things about many local charities who have received thousands of pounds of grants to undertake specific projects but after taking the money and making an initial start being strapped for cash ended up diverting the project money elsewhere so now they have no money left to finish the project so when they getaudited by the charity commission are going to be in serious trouble.

    Additionally I don’t think people realise that to become a registered charity you must form a committee but if you sit on that committee you are liable for the charity should things go wrong.

    Lowestoft's Finest

    July 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm

  4. Charties are in my experience not fit for purpose for a full scale transfer of either welfare responsibilities, or for getting the unemploeyd into work.

    Many do good work in their area of competence.

    But over-expansion is not a clever idea – as you say Lowestoft.

    One scandal here is that the Community Service Volunteers (CSV) which used to put a trendy left-liberal face on has got swept up in the process and now back the Big Society. That is, the very well-paid full-timers like it.

    They are in charge of distributing small grants to charities, social initiatives etc. On the money they get from Ipswich Council I am reliably informed (inside information) that they take 20% of the money for themselves in payment of this ‘service’!

    Andrew Coates

    July 30, 2010 at 10:12 am

  5. I wouldn’t say that Andy.

    Charities recruit private companies (although such companies remain transparent) to get people to sign up to £x per week/month to the charity in direct debits in return for £100-£150 commission. So, if I am giving £8 per month for example… £8 x 12 = £96 … so assuming the higher range… it would take them 18 months to break even on this commission.

    It doesn’t stop there… 14-26 months are the likely point to stop direct debits… so its possible for people to cancel before they even made enough money from me to pay the commission.

    Whatsmore… after this commission, the few quid they get through… how much are they going to be able to stick into frontline services? (that is excluding overheads and salaries indirectly related to their charitable aims). In 3 years, I sincerely doubt they would make anything more than £20 per person (assuming they do not cancel) on frontline services.


    Firstly, £20 commission is reasonable. £150 isn’t. Secondly, people donate thinking all the money will go to help the cause… give shelter to homeless kids, cure cancer etc. and people wont realise that more than half of it will stay within the organisation on huge salaries and administration. Thirdly, because people donate thinking it will go for the charity… and not aware of these transparent money sharks… the charities are actually FRADULENTLY spending donations.

    Initially, its within the remit to do what they wish to get further cash, but as they are registered charities, there are stronger restrictions. If they are not making clear that they are paying private for profit businesses and that such will get a cut they are wrongly getting money from people.

    Flexible New Deal

    September 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

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