In Pursuit Of Fairness

Fairness: everyone is demanding it. Theresa May is basing her "shared society" on it. Jeremy Corbyn wants a fair society. But what is it, and what do they mean when they invoke it?

In February 2010, just three months before the election of the Condemn Coalition Government, David Miliband was widely reported as calling for a “reset” of the British Constitution. The then Nu-Labour Foreign Secretary argued that there should be a “wide ranging reset referendum which would allow voters to express an opinion on a series of constitutional reform proposals on the same day”.

Miliband told a press gallery lunch that “we’ve still got a 19th century political system trying to address 20th century problems and in my book the whole system – the election to the Commons, the Lords, local government and how it’s organised, fixed terms parliaments – they should all be on a ballot.

“We should have what I would call a reset referendum that would reset the political system in a way that can actually address modern problems by getting power where it belongs, by checking power at the right places, by giving more rights and making sure rights of the individual are safe-guarded.”

David Miliband's ideas were comprehensively rejected by the electorate in 2010. Milliband, of course, was rewarded for his treachery by being appointed President and CEO of the globalist dominated, New York based refugee "charity", the International Rescue Committee. His salary is a staggering £425,000 per annum.

Miliband's ideas may have been rejected by the electorate, but not by the political classes who decided to either ignore the will of the people and push through constitutional reform anyway, or to keep holding referenda in the hope of getting the right answer, or both.

We have seen the introduction of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act in 2011. In the same year there was a referendum on an alternative voting system to elect our MPs. 68% voted No.  In 2012 there were further referendums to introduce directly elected mayors in our Major Cities with nine cities rejecting this proposal

We have already reported how the expressed wishes of the British electorate are being over-ridden in our ground-breaking article The Global Parliament of Mayors and the abolition of the electorate. The agenda for directly elected mayors is being orchestrated at a global level whilst being promoted by our duplicitous politicians as being part of a localism agenda which devolves power from the political centre at Westminster to a local level. We shall soon discover that it does nothing of the sort.

The Historical Relationship Between The Individual And The State

Until fairly recently there has been a limitation of powers of Local Authorities and other public bodies. The case of Entick V Carrington [1765] established the civil liberties of individuals and limited the scope of executive power. The Court declared that "the state may do nothing but that which is expressly authorised by law, while the individual may do anything but that which is forbidden by law".

A natural consequence of the above case law has been that actions taken by Local Authorities and public bodies which are not authorised by law are ultra vires (beyond authority) and the official law reports contain many examples where public authority actions have been struck down by the Courts.

Over the decades, this limitation on local authority power has also prevented public bodies from themselves creating other types of enterprise.

All Change

Since the financial crisis of 2008, and the austerity measures that followed, there have been significant changes in the way our public services operate. There have also been incremental changes in the relationship between the individual and the state. Right at the heart of these changes is Eric Pickles' Localism Act.

The Localism Act 2011 introduced a General Power of Competence which enables councils to undertake anything that private individuals are able to do, overturning centuries of constitutional convention.

If clause 1 of the Localism Act  is read in conjunction with clause 4 c) it reads:

A local authority has power to do anything that individuals generally may do. It confers power in any way whatever, including — power to do it for a commercial purpose or otherwise for a charge, or without charge, and power to do it for, or otherwise than for, the benefit of the authority, its area or persons resident or present in its area.

The Plain English Guide to the Localism Act, Department of Communities & Local Government, Nov 2011 expands a little by saying that whereas before, Local Authorities‘ powers and responsibilities were defined by legislation so that, In simple terms, they can only do what the law says they can:

The Government has turned this assumption upside down. Instead of being able to act only where the law says they can, Local Authorities will be freed to do anything - provided they do not break other laws ... It gives local authorities the legal capacity to do anything that an individual can do that is not specifically prohibited; they will not, for example, be able to impose new taxes.

Local Authorities have traditionally held the legal status of public corporations. We wondered if the new general power of the Localism Act would act as a catalyst and drive some Local Authorities to alter their legal status to a different model. Should this prove to be the case, how would this alter the relationship between then individual and the state?

Changes In The Way Local Council Services Are Delivered

Part 5, Chapter 2 of the Localism Act introduced a Community Right to Challenge. This gives non-statutory groups the right to "express an interest" in taking over the running of a local service. These non-statutory groups can include: two or more employees of the relevant Local Authority, community benefit societies, co-operatives whose activities are primarily for the benefit of the community, community interest companies, charitable incorporated organisations or companies limited by guarantee. Where such a "Civic Society Organisation" expresses an interest in taking over the running of a council service they may do so in partnership with other relevant bodies. Expressions of interest will need to demonstrate compliance with the principles of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act places a requirement on commissioners, at the pre-procurement stage of contracts for services, to consider the economic, environmental and social benefits of their approaches to procurement before the process starts. According to Procurement Policy Note – The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 – advice for commissioners and procurers: Information Note 10/12 20 December 2012 the Act requires authorities to consider the following at the pre-procurement stage:

how what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the “relevant area”. “Relevant area” being the area in which the authority (or authorities) primarily exercise their functions within the United Kingdom.

This Procurement Policy note reveals that "although the Act requires considerations to be made in respect of the 'relevant area' contracting authorities should be careful to ensure that suppliers from across the EU and beyond are able to compete on an equal footing for any contracts advertised". It then adds that:

In line with the EU Procurement Directives, EU Treaty principles and the UK’s international obligations, contracting authorities should not do any thing to discriminate against suppliers from other member states or countries who are party to the World Trade Organisation’s Government Procurement Agreement.

The scope of this is much broader than the European Union, therefore.

Additionally, this Policy Note claims that "the Compact sets out Government’s relationship with the voluntary and community sector". It states at paragraph 2.1 that Government will ensure that "social, environmental and economic value forms a standard part of designing, developing and delivering policies, programmes and services".

What Is "The COMPACT"?

The origins of the Compact can be traced back to 1996 and the report of the Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, chaired by Professor Nicholas Deakin. The report led to the significant changes introduced by the the Charities Act 2006, with its "revised definition of charitable purposes and a new public benefit regime".

The Deakin Commission also recommended that a "concordat between central government and representatives of the voluntary sector should be drawn up, as a code of good practice, for future relations". The first national compact was produced by the Home Office and a steering group in 1998, following a postal consultation with 20,000 community groups.

Shortly following the development of the first set of Compact codes of good practice, local areas were encouraged to develop Local Compacts. In 2007 the Commissions for the Compact, a public body responsible for overseeing and promoting use of the Compact, was established. Since then the Compact has been refreshed and renewed. Following the election of the Coalition Government in 2010, the Commission for the Compact was closed and replaced by the Office for Civil Society. The Office for Civil Society, originally based at the Cabinet Office, has recently moved to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. It oversees the implementation of the Compact across government departments.

Every government department is signed up to the principles of the Compact. Nearly every local area in England is now covered by a local Compact. Bournemouth Council for Voluntary Services describe the Compact as "a nationally agreed framework which lays out the principles for effective partnership working at a local level".

The previous Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister had the following to say about the Compact:

Building the Big Society and getting citizens more engaged, involved and responsible for the communities around them will only be possible in partnership with the sector; improving and delivering better, more responsive public services can only be done with the help of the sector - David Cameron

A flourishing civil society is fundamental to achieving the Power Shift the Coalition Government is committed to, transferring power away from central government to local communities - Nick Clegg

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, from which a summary of the Deakin Commission Report can be downloaded, correctly highlights that "independent voluntary organisations are the backbone of civil society and a vital indicator of democratic health".

This report summary emphasises that voluntary organisations "should work in partnership with other agencies to make their distinctive contribution. But their diversity and the need to preserve independence rule out any ‘master plan’ ... Voluntary work must not substitute for activity that is properly the responsibility of the state or the market".

The latest 16 page Compact was published by the Cabinet Office in December 2012. It was created in partnership with Compact Voice, an organisation representing civil society organisations on Compact matters.

How Independent Are Compact Voice?

Within his October 2010 article Dark Actors Playing Games, Brian Gerrish revealed that Cameron’s Cabinet Office had been in a "secretive dialogue with Julia Middleton to achieve a culture change in the Top 200 Civil Servants using the Common Purpose model". Francis Maude, who was Cabinet Office Minister at the time had declared that "transparency is at the heart of the Government's programme, which is why the Cabinet Office, at the heart of government is taking the lead". Maude also chaired the Public Sector Transparency Board.

He also set up the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) with the publicised aim of improving the way government buys goods and services; reducing losses from fraud, error and debt; raising money by selling empty buildings and underused properties; and reviewing and reshaping large scale projects. He appears in part 1 of Common Purpose’s 2009 video 'A question of leadership - Crisis, communication and lessons:

Compact Voice represent the voluntary sector on the Compact. It "works to ensure that strong, effective partnerships are at the heart of all relationships between the voluntary sector and government - locally and nationally". It is based nationally at All Saints Street, London and is governed by an eight member board which is chaired by Peter Holbrook.

Holbrook is CEO of Social Enterprise (UK), previously CEO Sunlight Development Trust. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Management from the University of Central Lancashire. His Linkedin page shows that he is a member of the CSC Leaders Group. CSC Leaders is a "partnership between international leadership development organisation Common Purpose and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Study Conferences (UK Fund)".

According to the CSC Leaders Participant Biography Pack 2013 "in 2010, Peter was appointed as a member of the Cabinet Office’s Mutual’s Taskforce and Trustee of the Big Society Trust (overseeing delivery of Big Society Capital) ... In 2012 he took up the role of Chair of the Social Enterprise World Forum". We believe that he is a Common Purpose Focus Graduate 2002.

The Social Enterprise UK website trumpeted that "Peter Holbrook had been named a Mutuals Ambassador for the Cabinet Office". According to the Mutuals Information Service, managed by the Cabinet Office "there are now over 100 public service mutuals across England, delivering public services across a wide range of sectors". It hadn't escaped our notice that 2012 was the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives.

We can also reveal that the Social Enterprise Coalition have produced a 24 page practical guide for public sector staff thinking about setting up a mutual or social enterprise.

It's All About "Fairness"

We wondered how the changes to the way our local council services are provided and the impact of the International Rules on Public procurement could be introduced to a sceptical British Public.

The New Newcastle Compact describes the relationship between the council, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and voluntary and community organisations in the city. Newscastle City Council claim that "the authority of the New Newcastle Compact comes from the fact that the council, the CCGs and the voluntary and community sector have made an agreement on how they will work together for the benefit of individuals and communities". It does not, as far as we can determine, enjoy the authority of the public.

Appendix 1 of Newcastle City Council's document Procuring and Commissioning for a Fair and Sustainable City 2012/13 – 2015/16 provides some useful clues to how these constitutional changes could be presented. This tells us that:

the development of this new Commissioning and Procurement Plan has been progressed in line with the findings from the Newcastle Fairness Commission. The Commission distinguishes four dimensions of fairness:  Fair Outcomes (Fair Share); Fair Process (Fair Play); Fair Opportunity (Fair Go); Fair Participation (Fair Say). These principles of fairness and the recommendations made by the Commission have been used in considering whether fairness underpins our procurement approach.

We can reveal that the leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, launched the Newcastle Fairness Commission at the State of the City event in July 2011. Forbes is a Common Purpose Matrix Graduate 2003.

Dame Suzi Leather was Chair of the Charity Commission from 1 August 2006 to 31 July 2012. She was therefore 'on watch' at the time of the significant changes introduced by the the Charities Act 2006. Suzi Leather appears in part 2 of the 2009 Common Purpose video, A question of leadership - Crisis, communication and lessons:

Can the fact that Dame Suzi Leather is Chair of the Plymouth Fairness Commission be dismissed as a simple coincidence?