07/08/2014 Newsnight


Exclusive: Civil service consultants on £2,000 a day - who and why? Iraq refugees trapped. Russian sanctions. Whatever happened to the Big Society? With James O'Brien.

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can get it, we found out that Whitehall is paying some people


?2,000 a day for advice. Why is the Civil Service secretly now having to


blow so much on private consultants? I think there are big questions


about whether we are getting value for money from these consultant, not


least because there is a severe lack of transparency about what they are


actually doing. The Government have to be open and transparent about who


is being paid, how much and to do what? Vladimir Putin puts sanctions


on us. Should we care? Will we notice? Liam Fox used to be Defence


Secretary, he thinks we should send troops to Eastern Europe. And


remember this... It is time for something different, something bold,


the Big Society is something different and bold. Mentioned it 100


times in year 1, this year not so much. Why did Big Society get the


chop. We are wedded to the old idea of the market is the answer to the


problems, but most of the best people in the parties know that is


not true and are looking for an alternative. Who are these people?


Here's one. Earlier this year Cabinet Office


Minister, Francis Maude claimed he had saved billions of tax-payers'


money by reducing the size of the Civil Service. The Government has


pledged to be transparent about all public servants earning more than


?150,000. But Newsnight has learned through a Freedom of Information


request that the Government is paying at least 30 people working


across different departments up to ?2,000 day. A detail missing from


the salary information released to the public. We're supposed to know


who earns the big bucks in Westminster. Everyone knows the


Prime Minister is on ?142,000. And that the head of MI 6 gets ?165,000.


But now Newsnight can reveal the hidden existence of an elite, whose


time is worth more money than anyone els. . We are not allowed to know


who they are and what they do, but we have managed to lift the lid a


little on their secret world. It has taken months of wrangling with


Whitehall official, but we have discovered there are at least 30


consultants, working across five Government departments, who are


earning between ?1,000-?2,000 day. How often do they work? We don't


know, because the Government won't say. But what I have been told is


there are consultants here at the Ministry of Defence who have worked


for several years on day rates of near enough ?1,000. That could be


?240,000 a year. I think people would be extremely concerned about


the number of consultants being paid vast amounts of money for merely a


day's work in Government. Government is rightly reducing the head count


of the Civil Service, but you can't negate those benefits of that


reduction in staffing by then paying huge amounts to consultants instead.


Do you think we are getting value for money from these consultants? I


think there are big questions about whether we are getting value for


money from these consultant, not least because there is a severe lack


of transparency about what they are actually doing. According to our


figures the Department of Transport has ten people earning between


?1,000-?2,000 a day. The Ministry of Justice eight, the Department of


Energy and climate has five, the Home Office has four, the Treasury 2


and the Ministry of Defence 1. But that isn't the only money the


MOD has spent, over the last five years it has spent ?1. 1 million for


technical support, money that has had to come out of the military's


equipment budget. That is the equivalent of one new nuclear


submarine or 14 new fighter jets, certainly more than enough to spare


the 32,000 jobs that have been lost. No wonder then that the Government


promised crackdown. Of course there are things we can simply stop doing,


advertising, consultant, IT. Despite the claims there are signs that


consultancy culture across Whitehall is alive and thriving. Take the Home


Office, last year its bill for consultants and other experts rose


from ?65-?90 million. So what is going on? Something like one in five


civil servants has left over the past few years, that has caused


major problems in terms of operational capacity and resources.


And of course cuts are a blunt instrument. So alongside those cuts


there has been a very significant erosion of the skills base,


exacerbated by the large and growing pay gap with the private sector for


key skills, so there is a major recruitment and retention problem in


a number of areas, a number of specialist areas across the Civil


Service. The Government told Newsnight that spending on


consultants has dropped by three-quarters to ?370 million last


year. They say they have made good on their pledge. But some people say


the picture is a bit more complicated. It is not one single


line in the accounts which talk about the costs of external


consultant, rather they could be external consultants, technical


support, they could be fee-paid staff, they could be interim


managers, in other words the picture is obscure. So there are all kinds


of pots of money that Government departments can use to pay for


consultants to make it difficult for us to know what they are being paid?


I believe that is the case, yes. At the Department for Transport they


are recruiting a Director of Communications. A job for a temp,


apparently, although a well paid one. The row over consultants isn't


only about whether the Government should hire them, it is about how


many there are and how much they are paid. And whether weir entitled to


know the details. -- whether we are entitled to know the details. Here


with me to discuss the consultancy culture are my guests.


Why do we need any consultants? I think that when you are running


public services at times you may need expertise that you need to


bring in, you might need to bring that in for a short period of time,


so any organisation whether it is in the private or public sector has


people that it brings in for that particular time. The thing is with


the figures shown they are masking two key issues, the Government has


reduced the size of the Civil Service by 20% but hasn't reduced


demands, they are asking more rather than less, and pay has fallen


significantly behind levels from the private sector. So they have to


bring people in on these sorts of arrangements to mask the problems


they have over long-term pay. So protecting the interests of your


members you are clearly, why aren't they up to the jobs being done by


the consultants? It is not a matter of not being up to the job. Any


organisation will promote and recruit people from outside. Most


organisations, particularly big ones like the Civil Service, have a


mixture of staff from outside and inside. Increasingly what the Civil


Service is finding is when it goes outside and it tries to recruit, it


can't recruit people because it pays a half or a third of what it pays in


the private sector. I think it was Margaret Thatcher in 1979 who put


the ceiling on what civil servants can earn. This Government has been


very keen not to have any of them earning more than the Prime


Minister, that ?150,000 ceiling, that is a compelling case, if you


can't pay top dollar you can't get top talent? We don't know if that is


the case because of the lack of transparency in how the Government


is dealing with the issue of bringing in external consultants to


do this job. We could say it was good value if the Government could


point us to the projects that these external consultants have been


brought in to do. Telling us these specific projects have been finished


successfully or on track to finish, and that is why we have the


consultants in. Government can't do that. Isn't part of the reason why


the Government is reluctant to do that, if it is revealed that they


paid ?300,000 to get a consultant to do this job you would be on the


phone to Fleet Street with the story? Not if the Government could


give us information about successful projects completed because of the


involvement of those people. At the moment we don't know, we're out of


pocket as tax-payers, we don't know where the money is gone and on the


other hand the Government is not really able to point us to anything


they have done with that money. Neither us nor the Government come


out looking good out of this. Are we getting value for money, or is it


impossible to say one way or the other? The Government has saved


about ?11 billion over the last four years in the Civil Service. The


Civil Service continues to provide value for money for the taxpayer, it


is reduced by 20% over the last four years without any reduction in


demand, I call that good value for money. But the reality of it is, the


Government is operating in the market place. When it goes out to


recruit or tries to retain staff, people will look at salary level


elsewhere, over a decade now it has simply fallen behind the market. We


have to spend money to save money effectively? It tough there being a


public servant, it is tough managing big public services, and at times I


think what that means is you need to make sure that you are retaining and


attracting the best talent and with that comes a price tag. That's what


the Government wheel has to face up to. What departments are doing is


simply masking that by this sort of approach around consultants. We


absolutely agree there should be transparency, this is masking a


long-term pay problem that Government is just closing its ears


to. That is a very good point brought up there, if the Government


could tell us we are spending X amount of money per day, almost


?2,000 per day on one single person because in the long run it will save


us this amount of money, tax-payers would understand and we would know


we were getting something for the money we are spending, we are not


getting that. How much does it cost to audit and produce the figures you


are hoping for, it is the hope that every time someone does an hour for


the Government it should be made public? It is straight forward, your


researchers had to do an FOI to get these figures out, why not make that


transparent. How much does it cost to get the information out there.


Toss the Taxpayers' Alliance would leap on them if it was out they were


making these sorts of monies? Is anyone out there in private sector


worth these sorts of sums? What every job is going to be worth


surely will depend on the job involved. For example a great


example. In the private sector is anybody worth that sort of money?


That is up to the shareholders to decide and they will go through that


process. But in the public sector definitely not? In the public sector


we are the shareholders, the Government has a responsibility to


convince us that the salaries being paid are actually worth it, and that


is the only thing that we are saying, really. Be tonight, the UN


Security Council held an emergency meeting on Iraq to discuss the rapid


advances made by the Islamist militants ISIS across northern Iraq,


which have proved so deadly for religious and ethnic minorities in


the region. Now President Obama says the US is considering a range of


options to help thousands of beleaguered members of the Yazidis.


These members of the Yazidi secretary have trapped on a


mountainside. They explain their desperation. TRANSLATION: They have


blocked the road to the mountains and the road down the mountains,


there is no water and people are dying of thirst, children are dying


and being buried under the rocks. TRANSLATION: They took girls and


raped them, they said that Yazidis have to convert to Islam, this


cannot happen. The Yazidis are an ancient sect, the extremists of ISIS


consider them devil worshippers. As ISIS has advanced across northern


and western Iraq, it has targeted religious and ethnic minorities,


some 200,000 Iraqis have been displaced from their homes. In


Nineveh, ISIS has purged members of minorities. Last month hundreds of


Christians fled moss sell, the major city, after ISIS gave an ultimatum,


convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be executed. Thousands of Yazidis


have been trapped on a mountainside after fleeing a takeover. Yesterday


it was confirmed that ISIS have taken control of Qaraqosh, close to


the border of Kurdistan. The US is looking at options to help the


Stranded Yazidis, ranging from an air drop of humanitarian supplies to


air strikes against the ISIS fighters. This Yazidi is clear what


about what he wants from the international community.


TRANSLATION: We don't want cars, money, donations or food. We want


the international community to get water and food to the trapped


Yazidis or to get them out. Otherwise it will be a humanitarian


disaster. The world is now watching this humanitarian crisis unfold. But


will anyone intervene? To discuss the might of Christians


and other minorities in Iraq is Canon Andrew White, the cap lane of


St George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, who estimates his own flock


has reduced by a sixth in the last decade. Flock


What kinds of people are presenting themselves at the church? Over the


years we have actually represented everybody, not just Christians, so


we have Yazidis, Shia, Sunni, Mandian, all the minority groups


represented, and they come regularly to share in worship and their very


substantial relief programme that we organise. We have a clinic, we have


a school, and we try to provide a very comprehensive service, but now


they are all at risk and they all have nothing. But there is a slight


delay in the link, my apologies, and thank you for your patience. So


people are arriving with nothing in their pockets and nowhere to go? And


that is the challenge to help those who have nothing. Over the last few


days we have been up here in the north of Iraq trying to ensure that


we are providing holistically for all the people from whatever sect or


religion despite us being Christian in orientation. We are there for


everybody. Everybody is being massacred, slaughtered and what they


experience is worse than you could ever imagine. What should the


international community be doing to help? I don't know if you can hear


me, what would you like to see the international community doing right


now? Well, the international community has got to wake up to the


needs of the people. Our people, I mean all of the people, they have


nothing, they need to be provided for, they need to be given some


future and some hope and the international community needs to


take seriously their needs and start meeting their needs. So that they


are not just left on the side. Finally Father, can you concede of a


moment where you might advise your own congregation to quit Iraq, day


when perhaps there would be no Christians left in the country at


all? I have always said to our people, I'm not going to leave you,


don't you leave me. Now I can't say that any longer. If I tell them not


to leave I'm saying you have to be prepared to die for your faith. That


is what is happening. We have had people's heads chopped off, we are


having people convert, we are even having children slaughtered and cut


in half. Yes, we have no bananas, I can't quite see novelty songs like


that featuring too highly on a Vladimir Putin playlist. But he


might soon be singing it in spirit to the Russian people after today's


announcement of retaliatory sanctions designed to halt the


import of all food from the west. The idea, of course, is this will


hurt the west a lot more than the Russians. But has Putin bitten off


more than he can chew. Here is our diplomatic editor.


Opinion can be treacherous, one minute a leader can be tried


bestride the globe and bag the Olympic, the next it has been


horribly complicated. A few weeks ago people were hailing Vladimir


Putin as a master strategist for outmanoeuvring the west. Now it


seems he has a series of interwoven and intractable problems, with


Russian separatist in Ukraine and the population of Crimea, and in


particular with the Russian economy and how he gets it to move forward


under western sanctions. Obviously he's feeling under a certain amount


of strain. He's in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation


with the west. He's aware that the west is richer and better armed n


all sorts of ways it could be dominant. On the other hand he's


defending what he views as a vital national interest which is


protection of Russian interests in Ukraine. He's not going to back down


readily. The first issue, the Ukraine conflict. Fighting has now


reached the outskirts of dons of Donestk. Does Putin abandon or


invade. The head of NATO was urging the Russians not to go in. Russia


has massed large forces on the Ukrainian border, to seal the


separatist and to use any pretext to intervene even further. So I call on


Russia to step back from the brink. But today on sanctions the Russians


under the ante, they banned many western foods, responding to recent


sanctions from the west. Polish apple growers have been denied a


market and are asking their people to eat them as their patriotic duty.


And the Baltic Republics too are likely to suffer. But some argue


Russian consumers will be the big losers. Mr Putin judges that they


can take the pain. Point about Russia, to understand, is that it is


a country which can show fantastic solidarity when facing external


threats. Look at the Second World War. That is exactly what has shown


newspaper the course of the crisis he has the support of over 80% of


the Russian people. He's pretty confident, I think, that the Russian


public will put up with a certain amount of economic unhappiness in


order to stand up for Mother Russia. But the state of the Russian economy


still poses big problems. There is capital flight and the confidence of


foreign investors has been shaken. It all threatens deep recession. The


bigger picture here is Russia's economy was struggling well before


the crisis in Ukraine, growth had slowed markedly and the economy was


already on the brink ref session. One of the ways that Russia needs to


revive its economy is by attracting foreign investment to really raise


the quality of technology and the capital stock, and all of these


recent developments go against that. This square at the centre of Kiev


where Ukraine's revolution began was the scene of fresh trouble today.


The Government, long overdue, is trying to clear is. This crisis has


already placed President Putin at the centre of an east-west battle.


It could still produce a major war in Europe.


Liam Fox is the former Defence Secretary who warned back in 2010 of


the threat of state-on-state warfare from Russia. He's here to discuss


Putin's latest manoeuvres. Dr Fox, do you feel vindicated by these


events? No, but I think a lot of people have been saying for a long


time that Putin respects only two things, consistency and strength,


and the west has not shown either of them in great measure. We saw the


cyber attack on Estonia, a NATO partner, we did nothing. Russia


invaded Georgia, we effectively did nothing. And we saw Russia backing


Syria, even when Syria used chemical weapons and famously with the red


lines drawn by President Obama, we did nogin. That sends a lot of


signals to someone like Putin who is effectively a bully and runs a


thuggish regime, that the west will not stand up to his actions. You


describe an escalation, they are three examples of the same problem,


not necessarily an increase in Putin's boldness, or Putin's


appetite for a fight? I would disagree. I would think there is an


escalation there between a cyber attack on Estonia and the annexation


of Crimea. But he went into Georgia? He went into Georgia and he has an


occupation force still there. We don't call it an occupation force,


but what else do you call it when foreign forces are on your sovereign


territory, develop military bases and refuse to leave. He has done an


interesting thing, decribing his role and defender of all people of


Russian ethnicity that is interesting to the sovereign state


description of the world? That is to on absolutely nailing the issue.


Putin has two views that incompatible with our view of the


world. The first is to say that Russia has a sphere of influence,


and we in the west believe that sovereign nations should be the


arbiters of their own destiny. That is incompatible. Secondly, he has


said that ethnic Russians are not to be protected by the countries they


live and the laws and constitutions of their Government, but an external


power, for example Russia. That blows a hole in everything we


understand in terms of international law and norms since World War II. It


plays well at home, it appeals to the nationalistic fervent that gives


Railtrackings that only Kim Jong ILL beat in the world. And so perhaps


your desire to put troops on the ground in Ukraine would add to the


national inks fervour in Moscow and keeping Putin in power? I never said


to deploy troops in eastern Ukraine but Eastern Europe where there are


ethnic Russians and where the Putin doctrine would say we are free to


intervene when we want. I think it is important to understand that the


smaller NATO members, particularly the Baltic states, who have in some


cases very high numbers of ethnic Russians are very worried about this


doctrine being perpetrated on them. We therefore, I think, have a duty


to maintain our cohesion as an alliance. I would like to see more


NATO exercises in places like Eastern Europe and in the Black Sea.


And I would like to see a permanent NATO strength on the ground in the


Baltic states. He won't back down, if he does he loses his power base


at home which is built on the Russian bear bowing to nobody? That


is failing to understand our on doctrine of deterrents which is to


say we are having a show of strength here, which is to stop you taking


actions we find unacceptable. The trouble is, because of our own lack


of understanding and our own unwillingness to apply the concept


of deterrents, we have seen what happened in Estonia, Georgia and


what happened in the Ukraine. It is time for us to actually show some


far greater moral strength than we have shown in the west for some


time. Weak leadership from David Cameron and other western leaders.


Do you think that applies also to the situation in Gaza at the moment?


I think the situation in Ukraine is of far greater importance in terms


of our national security. And in the longer term safety of Europe and the


NATO alliance. I think in terms of what happens in Gaza the


Government's response has been reasonable. And sensible. I think


that one of the problems that we have in an rather where the debate


is very much media-driven is that we're looking at the symptoms of the


conflict rather than the causes. I have a lot of trouble with this word


"proportionate", what is a proportionate response. It is


interesting you say that, you say reasonable but that is elements of


the Government, the Deputy Prime Minister is happy to use the word


"disproportionate? The Prime Minister, and the Foreign Secretary


are responsible for national security, what will happen in a


year's time is another matter. What is clear is we have an underlying


problem, the underlying problem is that Israel has a neighbour, Gaza,


where Hamas believes that Israel should not exist, and as long as


they continue with that belief it is very difficult to see how you can


get a political solution. We are receiving reports this evening of


American air strikes in northern Iraq, that presumablialies with your


desire for a show of strength in these trouble spots. Would you like


to see British aircraft and service personnel getting involved in that?


There is no case as long as the Americans are taking the lead, given


they have far greater military capability. If the United States is


involved and trying to deal with the physical capabilities of ISIS, that


is a good thing, because what is required is the ability to degrade


their military capability to the point that the Governments in the


region, particularly the Government of Iraq is able to deal with them,


themselves. Those reports are currently unconfirmed and the


Pentagon have issued a denial. You sound like man who wants to see more


war? No. What I want to see is the containment of those who are


slaughtering innocents, as you showed in your previous report, who


are using religious persecution as a tool of their political and military


doctrine. And we do have a responsibility as people who believe


in freedom and security and a rule of law to stand up for those who are


being very obviously % cuted in areas where we could make a


difference. Let me ask you about a battle that's all together less


bloody, a bat shall may unfold at the top of your party, the


Conservative Party party, do you think the fuss around Boris


Johnson's desire to return to Westminster speaks of a belief that


the next election is all right lost, he wants to be the leader of the


opposition and in place as early as possible? I doubt if you asked most


of my colleagues if their ambition was to be leader of the opposition,


no they want to be Prime Minister. It is a question of who succeeds


David Cameron as Prime Minister after the next election. It is an


interesting battle, but I tell you something it won't be fought out


amongst the journalist and the media, and the Conservative MPs.


Will you be standing? It is unlikely but I will be voting in it. Some


people think you are a May pole around which elements of the party


like to dance, an indication? We hear all the reports of Westminster,


if you take it over a period there is virtually no-one whose name is


not mentioned. Let's get re-elected first and discuss it afterwards.


Thank you very much. Do you remember John Major's cones hot-line, how


about "hug a hoodie", or Gordon Brown's Government of "all the


talents". They must have seemed like brilliant ideas in private, but the


public soon rendered them ridiculous and irrelevant, both. We don't have


much mention of David Cameron's Big Society these days, do we? We have


been finding out if that is because it has quietly joined the


embarrassing menagerie of political white elephants.


Remember Big Society? So it is time for something different, something


bold. Something that don't just pour money down the throat of wasteful


top-down Government schemes. The Big Society is that something different


and bold. These young people embody David Cameron's vision, though they


may not realise it. Can you put your hands up if you


have heard of Big Society? They are doing national citizens service, and


60,000 will go through the three-week course this year, costing


us, the taxpayer, ?1400 a child. It was the Government's big idea in


this the manifesto last time round. The Government wants to build a


future generation of volunteers. At the last election we were all


invited to join the Government of Britain. You don't hear about it


much any more. What happened? Big Society may have been dreamt up


around a metropolitan dinner table, but it did reach rural Cumbria, one


of the first areas to pilot David Cameron's Big Idea.


We have come to find out about Big Society. Right. Do you know about


it? I have heard of it. Do you think it is happening here? I think it may


be. This man is one of several local farmers who was persuaded to allow


fibre optic cables to pass through their fields for free so he and his


remote community could have high-speed broad band. It is classic


Big Society territory, with a local contractor on board BT's costs came


down thousands of pounds and it has taken four years and largely unpaid.


If you thought you would have to do it for four years one paid, would


you still have done it? It has been a long journey. If someone had asked


me eight months ago would you recommend it to another community, I


would have said absolutely not T has been really challenging, dark days.


Now we are getting to the end of the project and we can see how much we


have done and how much we have achieved i would say, yeah, we can


smell the fibre now. This is worth it. It is something to celebrate and


30 or so miles away they can, they Butchers Arms, bought by locals


including the MP when it shut down. The volunteers behind the pub buyout


have also built 12 affordable homes in the village. As a Big Society


pilot area they had support from Whitehall to navigate through red


tape, procurement and other pitfalls. Are other communities


responding to Big Society in the same way. In fact, 15 neighbourhood


plans like this are in train to build 6,200 homes in Britain. 27


community pubs have opened nationwide, not many when it is


estimated 26 shut every week. As for broadband there are five community


projects like Libby's going ahead in the UK. In the end communities are


sometimes stepping away. I guess it is maybe they don't feel it is their


business, they don't feel they have enough time or sometimes they maybe


just don't want it enough. Or maybe they think it is something the


Government should be doing for them. I also think Government could help


more by just putting these things up in lights and saying, in the end, if


Libby can get super-fast broadband for houses, there is no reason why


you can't. This is your Government's big idea, why are they not talking


about it now. If they are not putting it in lights who is going


to? It is a struggle. One of the problems might be that Big Society


was always a bit emorphous, one of those behind the pub takeover says


they would have done it any way. There is no doubt our community


irrespective of Big Society would have bought the pub. What does that


say about Big Society? Simply that we didn't need it to manage a


project of buying a pub. That is not to say that other groups don't need


that support. Liverpool was another area that pilots Big Society after


the election. Here it ended badly, the Government accused by the


Labour-run Council of Using Big Society to dress up austerity. It


pulled out saying it couldn't ask the voluntary sector to do more in


the era of cuts. The whole concept of trying to create a society that


is just based on volunteers, without any underpinning of that fabric and


infrastructure was always doom today failure in my view. I think that's


the reason why it has failed and why Liverpool didn't want to play any


part of it after we saw. It was like the Emperor's new clothes, somebody


needed to stand up and say he has no clothes on. The Government disagrees


with Liverpool's assessment, claiming everything from free


schools to changes to neighbourhood planning to a 44% increase in


library volunteering as big society, the last will have campaigners


against library closures spitting. Newsnight has gone through David


Cameron's speeches. His buzzword used to get mentioned a lot, there


were 100 when it launched and now it is down to five where there is a


sustained campaign and his own party put the boot in. When he was still


talking about it, it was the Conservative's attempt to mend


broken Britain, the fact it hasn't happened is a tragedy says someone


of those behind the vision. I think it lost because of battles lost in


the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party returned to its


standard, kind of 1980s Thatcherite narrative. It was not that the


people who opposed it were bad people. It is just they thought the


same old mechanisms would deliver the outcomes of prosperity and


shared wealth. But they haven't and they never will. You were part of


the manifesto last time round. The manifesto said an invitation to join


the Government of Britain. Do you think the Conservatives will be


going into the next election with that same idea? I think it is dead


politically. But do you know what, all the political parties are


fighting for majority. And they are not getting it. So why that is, is


because all the parties remain captured by their own methods or


means of delivery. Labour is still wedded to the state, as the answer


to everybody's problems. The Conservative Party is still wedded


to the old model of the market, as the answer to everybody's problems.


But all the best people in both parties that is not true. And they


are all looking for an alternative. The first rule is you respect


everybody's right to have a different opinion.


Of course Philip Blonde says that alternative is Big Society, still


living and breathing here at national Sarns service. But will you


be hearing as much about Big Society in the run up to the next election


as you did last time. One insider told Newsnight if we don't talk


about it the only narrative left for this Government is cuts.


Here with me to discuss the legacy of and prospects for the Big Society


is the founder of the Magic Breakfast Charity, that gives free


breakfasts to poorer schoolchildren, and from Bristol the Conservative


MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg. So Big Society has turned into Mrs Racz Chester,


leave it in the at particular and hope nobody mentions it? I think the


Big Society is alive and kicking, you see it in rural communities like


my own seat in north Somerset, where a whole range of activities are


undertaken by the community. It is about David Cameron's statement that


there is such a thing as society and it is different from the state. That


can be put into practice without the state muddling about with it. It is


a glorious success in Somerset? It is a glorious success and working


brilliantly. This must be the first recorded time in political history


that a Prime Minister has done something wonderful and not told the


voters about it? The issue there is the success of the Big Society is


not because it is led by the Government, but it is led by society


itself. On Saturday we will have the flower show which, is long going on,


greats event in north-east Somerset, that is about volunteers working


hard throughout the year to make something happen for the whole


community. That's separate from the Government, that is the success of


the Big Society, is allowing these things to happen and flourish,


rather than assuming that big Government is the answer to all the


problems. So flower shows in north Somerset, it is all blooming


marvellous, you are one of the people that Jacob Rees-Mogg refers


to, you are leading big society, are you happy with how things are going?


From the Magic Breakfast's perfective, we are -- perspective,


we are giving food to those children who come to school hungry. We won an


award and were big supporters of the Big Society, we want it to lead to


more action. Nobody can argue with the fact that bringing more people


to do more good things in their communities, helping people to get


engaged in all sorts of project, great stuff, but what has happened


since then is I think we have been slightly overcome by austerity. What


I want is for Big Society to be used to tackle social inequality as well


as the beautiful flower displays as well as the running your local pub.


We have a big challenge in this country, children arriving at school


too hungry to learn is not something that we can leave to just the


Government or just the state. We need a combination. And you don't


feel that really the state should be stepping in to the sort of


circumstances you describe, and people like you shouldn't have to?


It is a tragedy that in the sixth-richest economy in the world


we have kids arriving at school hungry and half of the teachers in


this country are bringing in food. Now I signed up to the Big Society


as a great theme, and I think there are some very good things and some


very bad things. On the good side, absolutely. It is a boost to it.


What does it actually mean, this notion that everybody should be


excellent to each other, it is like a Bill and Ted film, in real terms


what does it mean? I think it was a reminder that it is very possible to


get involved in community projects and make a difference. It always


was? It wasn't new, it was acknowledged at the time that this


was an emphasis on a part of British culture and society that has always


been there, the desire to help each other. This is great and decent


country with lots of people who do enormously good community project


work already, it wasn't new, but what I liked about it was it was


bringing in more social enterprise and more funding and lots of


initiatives. For us at Magic Breakfast, it didn't bring in


funding but more people are saying people are coming hungry, can we


volunteer and come to you. Jacob Rees-Mogg, flower shows not with


standing, what would you point to as conclusive evidence that people who


need help are getting it from Big Society? You have to to


differentiate what is properly the role of the state and what is the


role of volunteers. State is there to do what is essential and can't be


done by anybody else. Feeding hungry children? I would say that is


something the state should view as essential. So this charity is not


part of Big Society, but got an award for being so good of it? There


are parts that become Big Society, the state has a welfare system to


give people funds to buy food and volunteers can be there to help


children eat when they get to school in the morning and their parents may


have failed to do so because they are so disorganised. The state


doesn't provide money for that? The state provides a safety net to


provide money to feed children, and not every family is efficient in


doing that. With respect, I would say that you know there are an awful


lot of children that are going to food banks now. We know that half of


teachers in this country are bringing in food. It is not about


family disorganisation, it is about poverty. The majority of the


children we feed are in homes where their parents are working long hours


in low-paid jobs, where the rent has gone up, the fuel has gone up but


their wages have not. Now if we are going to get the Big Society to turn


into something really meaningful we have to tackle the structural things


like that right now. And yet you disagree, you feel the role of the


state and the role of the voluntary sector is easily distinguishable,


Jacob Rees-Mogg? It is easily distinguishable, there are always


fray areas. The -- grey areas. Big Society will provide, as in my own


constituency with a temporary road being built by an individual with


the support of a landowner. An individual who has invested ?150,000


off the top of my head? You are right. That is not quite what we


understood Big Society to mean? He's not expecting to make a return but


his costs back. That is society coming together to do something that


the state cannot manage to do. Thank you for that. Flower shows and road


tolles. Let's have a look at the front pages, the sometimes leads


with "wars of religion": SNP I'm off back to my usual pond,


thank you for having me. We are ending with a shark cam. A quick


look at what the really big fish do when they see a camera.


? # Big mouth strikes again


# Take my place # Big mouth


# Strikes again # You have no right to take my place


# And now I know # I


We will change the script for the end of the week, we lose the


sunshine and replace it with heavy rain in the morning. Warnings have


been issued as they have been for Northern Ireland. If you start dry


you will be not surprised to see showers breaking out. Drying up in


the afternoon but with showers. Western Scotland wet through the


afternoon, but in eastern Scotland one or two showers dotted around but


many place also enjoy a dry afternoon. Into the south and east


of Scotland, heavy showers around through the afternoon as they will


be in northern England, Thundering, lightning and rain in a


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