Former Big Society Network CEO, Steve Moore, posted the second in what he promises will be a ‘series’ of pieces about his reflections on the organisation’s brief existence.
Moore is to be applauded for sharing his views on BSN’s demise. Those involved in the failed charity have been remarkably quiet in recent months and his willingness to present his take on events is a welcome contribution to the debate.
However reading the post, I can’t help the feeling that it is a carefully crafted attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility for the shambles that BSN presided over and to clear the path for future activity. It’s not surprising that Moore would wish to put as much distance between himself and what happened, but it doesn’t help answer the questions that remain over what the hell went on at the Prime Minister’s favourite charity.
The succession of meetings that Moore reports took place are frankly neither here nor there. He is at pains to tell us that Steve Hilton, Nick Hurd and various other people never attended these meetings. Fine, but that cannot possibly ‘prove’ they – nor anyone else who didn’t attend these meetings – were not involved in decisions to fund BSN with millions of pounds. This is the main point that I, and numerous others, have been harping on about for the last few months and is definitely not addressed in Moore’s blog.
Who made the decisions to award millions of pounds to an organisation that failed repeatedly to deliver social impact with public funds? And why did public bodies bend over backwards to make these grants if it wasn’t due to Ministerial pressure?
Moore paints a picture of himself as an innocent bystander as the assembled flawed characters surrounding the Network row among themselves and fall out of love with the whole Big Society project. Al Gore’s cameo appearance in the story is frankly just baffling.
Moore clearly doesn’t intend to take any prisoners and gets things started with some pretty scathing views of Nat Wei, who he describes as having ‘no discernable charisma’ and ‘no one’s idea of a public advocate for a future Prime Minister’s big idea’Perhaps Lord Wei is no longer considered politically useful, and certainly his stock has fallen since he gave up the role as Big Society advisor to the PM.
Nesta, who pumped over £500,000 into BSN – under duress according to their trustee at the time, Liam Black – never raised any concerns over delivery or social impact. If that’s true it contradicts the findings of the NAO’s investigation into the affair and Geoff Mulgan’s internal investigation, both of which suggest under-performance issues were raised with BSN.
Paul Twivy’s radical plans for Your Square Mile were ‘hated’ by Downing Street head honcho Steve Hilton – which Moore presents as evidence somehow, that BSN was not politically supported.
Hilton hated it, so then (naturally) the PM hated it. And Moore describes a wedge between Twivy’s vision and David Cameron’s.
Undeterred Twivy pursued the Your Square Mile project outside BSN – but taking with him a large grant from the Big Lottery Fund, just 48 hours after it was handed over to BSN. It might be considered unusual to award a grant to one organisation, only for it to be immediately transferred to another organisation – but perhaps that was what was planned all along. Either way, not a penny of that grant was spent by BSN according to Moore – so apparently BSN can’t be held responsible for the abject failure of that particular project.
There is plenty in the piece about why David Cameron, his Ministers and advisors and most of all Steve Moore, are not responsible for how £3m of public money was awarded and then frittered away.
So who is responsible if it’s not the politicians or those tasked with delivering these projects?
Perhaps it’s the funders – Nesta, Cabinet Office and the Big Lottery Fund?
But since they are all public bodies (or were at the time, in the case of Nesta) accountability still rests with government.
Perhaps we’ll never know. But one thing is for sure, this tale of political intrigue and missing millions is no clearer than it was before this post.
And if anyone knows why Al Gore at a coffee machine makes an appearance in the post I’d love to know, as I can’t for the life of me understand.