Unfortunately, the sector cannot be immune from the cuts that are forced upon us, so of course there is concern about short-term job losses, but we firmly believe that there will be opportunities for the sector in the future, not least in delivering public services, and we are working very hard to make those opportunities real.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action estimates that 26,000 charity workers will lose their jobs in the face of the Government’s accelerated cuts to services. Does he agree with that estimate, and if not, will publish his own estimate of the job losses in the sector?
I do not recognise the basis of that estimate, but of course there is a challenge in the short term, and this Government are working very hard to try to help the sector manage through this period of transition. There is a very significant long-term opportunity for the sector to deliver more public services, to help people find more of a voice at the local level, and to benefit from the additional time and money we hope to encourage people to give as well as the social investment we are trying to encourage through the big society bank.
I welcome the progress my hon. Friend is making in promoting and advancing the voluntary sector. [Interruption.] Will he compare that with the lacklustre performance of the last Labour Government?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question, and it was interesting to hear the chortles from those on the Opposition Benches. Of course there is absolutely no recognition among Labour Members of the necessity for these cuts after their Government’s absolutely shambolic stewardship of the economy over the past 13 years.
Many in the voluntary and community sector are describing the transition fund, which was heavily over-subscribed and I believe is now closed, as a drop in the ocean compared with the tsunami of cuts facing the sector. Does the Minister not agree that he needs to do more to protect the voluntary sector from job cuts, especially at a time when he is asking it to do more?
I do not think any of my constituents would consider £100 million of taxpayers’ money to be a drop in the ocean. As the outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury said, “There is no money,” yet we have found £100 million to try to help the most vulnerable organisations through a very difficult transition period. We wanted to get that assistance up and running as quickly as possible so the money could get out in as unbureaucratic way as possible, and I am very proud of what we have managed to achieve.