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Big Society Bank

Volume 532: debated on Wednesday 7 September 2011

I am delighted to be able to tell my hon. Friend that we are making excellent progress in establishing the big society bank. I am equally delighted to be able to tell him that it will be called the Big Society Capital group.

Big Society Capital announced appointments to the management and board in July. It is now securing Financial Services Authority and state-aid approval, and we expect it to be open for business in the spring.

Does the Minister agree that the most important thing about the initiative is that it gets funding to organisations in some of the most deprived communities in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is a noted, effective and passionate advocate of his constituency. It is of course for Big Society Capital itself to decide exactly where it places its investment funds, but I have absolutely no doubt that it will want to prioritise social intermediaries who focus on those families who are most vulnerable, and on those individuals and families who are most in need of help.

Community groups, including not-for-profit organisations, have difficulty establishing community projects because of the complexity of the system to secure funding. Will the big society bank have a dedicated officer to help and assist them, so that small projects in deprived communities have a level playing field?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very real problem, which Big Society Capital has recognised. Right from the beginning of the scheme’s design, Sir Ronald Cohen has insisted, and Ministers have agreed, that it should not directly invest in social enterprises but act as a provider of finance to social intermediaries—whether they are lending banks such as Triodos or other more exotic and interesting new social intermediaries—that already have a retail function and can deal, and know how to deal, with the small groups that need to deal with them.