After the 2010 general election, when the Big Society still remained the big idea of David Cameron’s government, the Office for Civil Society was one of the hippest parts of government. While the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary generated more headlines, one of Theresa May’s first acts as Prime Minister was to move the Office into the DCMS.
Given that DCMS is considered a relatively lowly department, is it where the Big Society goes to die or where cultural policy is re-energised by a new cadre of civil society experts?
The move has not been welcomed in the third sector. As Kirsty Weakley, reporter at Civil Society Media wrote:
“The trouble with the announcement… is that it signifies charities as a Cinderella sector in government – not a good fit anywhere – and this is not where you want to be.”
The cultural sector itself, as well as relevant DCMS officials, now face the challenge of working to ensure that these concerns are unfounded. And demonstrate that the third sector can achieve more in a Whitehall partnership with the cultural sector than it would apart.
The move might also tell us something about how our new Prime Minister sees culture. As something more than the Creative Industry Economic Estimates that DCMS publish; a vital ingredient to what glue binds us together. In divisive, nervous times, this is a much bigger responsibility than the small print of a ministerial reshuffle might suggest.