May 23, 2011; Source: Financial Times | Yes, friends, that’s what he said. Each member of the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet will spend at least one day a year doing volunteer work. That includes the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a bevy of secretaries, ministers, and undersecretaries.
Cameron also wants civil servants to volunteer. Even Cameron will volunteer, explaining that he has already done so at Street League by providing training to young people applying for jobs. The idea of all of this, according to Francis Maude, a cabinet office minister, is that charitable giving and volunteering had “flatlined” and needed a bigger prompt.
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To his Labour Party critics, Cameron’s latest plan of volunteering cabinet officers is the “fourth relaunch” of the Big Society project, characterized by Tessa Jowell, a shadow cabinet minister, as “big promises . . . made but little has been delivered.”
According to Labour, government budget cuts have led to “the essential elements of community life . . . slowly being starved of sustenance.” Cameron is also proposing a £10 million social action fund to promote volunteering and a £30 million pot to strengthen infrastructure organizations that support volunteering. But one day a year of cabinet officer volunteer work? Will that motivate the unmotivated British volunteer? Please explain who suggested this half-baked idea to the Conservative PM.—Rick Cohen