a. Future Libraries Programme

The first ten areas to join the 'Future Libraries Programme' have been announced. The Coalition is seeking to highlight examples of innovative practice at local level which suggest how libraries may ensure cost savings while delivering more relevant services to their local communities. Those who have signed up and been selected for the scheme are promised only 'practical support and advice'.

b. Voluntary Sector Taskforce

As reported in the Regulation section of this edition of Coalition Watch, the Coalition has established a taskforce to look at the regulatory burden placed on charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises, with the aim of 'flushing out' that burden and proposing legislative or other changes needed to make it easier for the third sector to operate. The taskforce has been asked to report early in 2011.

c. Social Mobility Review

The Deputy Prime Minister is to lead the Coalition's efforts to improve social mobility and has appointed Alan Milburn, a Secretary of State under the previous government, as an independent reviewer who will prepare an annual review of the progress being made towards improving social mobility.

Our comments:

In the last edition of Coalition Watch we reserved judgment on whether the 'Big Society' was rhetoric that would fade away in time, or whether it would turn into a more substantive driver of government policy. The last fortnight gives us little evidence for either conclusion.

Nonetheless, assuming the Coalition to be serious in its efforts to reinvigorate community engagement and see it as a viable alternative to top-down government intervention, it is essential that a framework exists in which community groups and charities can function effectively without themselves being caught up in unnecessary regulation. To that extent, the Voluntary Sector Taskforce has to be welcomed, but it must deliver a strong report making viable proposals for change, and do so quickly.