The Evening News has run another interesting article today about Future Education, which shows that a council funded report recently praised Future for providing “good value for money when compared to other specialist provision.”
The article refers to the fact that the council has awarded another contract to another provider – but this seems to be a bit of a red herring.
My understanding is that the county council put two contracts out to tender. Future Education spent the best part of a year preparing its submission for one of those tenders – only to see the council withdraw that tender at the last minute. The effect is to withdraw funding from a charity that, as the Evening News makes clear, has helped numerous young people and benefited the whole community.
The issue is not whether the council has chosen a good provider for the second tender (it is not even about how unfairly it has treated Future in the process). The real issue is that the council is not showing sufficient commitment to a grass-roots organisation created by people living in the community that it serves: an organisation that supports families as well as children.
I am all for efficiency in public services but we also need to support local communities that try to solve their own problems. That doesn’t mean funding every local initiative, regardless of effectiveness. However when a group, such as Future Projects, has a proven record of successful delivery over 10 years it seems shortsighted to jeopardise its existence.
Not only does this decision undermine the good work of Future Projects (including its other community activities – as reported elsewhere by the Evening News) – it also sends a very bad signal to other communities. Effectively it says: “Don’t bother trying to do this yourself because ultimately your council will impose a solution – because big brother knows better than big society.” That can’t be right.
[Note: I tried to post this response on the Evening News website but the comment function does not appear to be working.]