Blunkett: rich need to step up in the downturn

Blunkett: rich need to step up in the downturn
Fabian Society

The financial chaos of recent months has reinforced the importance of both government and community,  writes David Blunkett MP in a new Fabian Freethinking paper, leaving Labour in a position to play to its strengths.

The paper stresses the importance of the giving of time and money – but calls on wealthy individuals and businesses to do more to pull their weight:

‘Rich people should be encouraged to contribute more,’ he says.

Blunkett – who recently chaired the Labour Manifesto Group on the Third Sector – writes that ‘Labour is the only major political party that grew from the grassroots up. Where elected governments are the only mechanism to deal with global events, it is through personal giving, mutual action and the reinforcement of social structures that men and women can make the difference.’

But the recession must not be an excuse for ignoring obligations.  

‘There are more charities competing for less money – exacerbated by the fact that real fears are emerging of a substatioal shortfall, including the impact of fluctuating capital investments.’

This compounds already bleak trends in the UK’s approach to charity, with the number who donate in decline and the overall level of donations flat. 

Blunkett is critical that ‘corporate social reponsiblity is not yet a feature of the landscape, as it is in the United States.’

‘The wealthiest 10 per cent in Britain represent 56 per cent of the nation’s wealth, but only 21 per cent of giving. It is often those least able to give who proportionately give the most, and it is from these indivuals and families that heartfelt giving can promote the wellbeing of those around them.’ 

‘Sadly, the generosity of individuals is not always matched by corporate giving and corporate social responsibility,’ he adds.

The Freethinking report paints a picture of a third sector that is expanding and thriving, and whose ‘social glue’ is increasingly important as we enter a recession. But Blunkett takes issue with a Conservative Party approach that sees the third sector as a substitute for government:

 “If one thing above all refutes the suggestion that Britain is broken, it is the strength of our third sector,” says the former Home Secretary. ‘It demonstrates the very existence and resilience of civil society. Where that resilience has been washed away, families lack support, communities become fractured, and it is the job of government to support and help their renewal.’

This vision of the third sector as complementing and bolstering state action is a direct challenge to the Iain Duncan Smith view that sees the third sector as merely a means of delivering services more efficiently or more cheaply.

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