Martin Bright

The Cabinet should show its Big Society credentials

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As we prepare for the Big Society to mop up where the Big State used to be and ministers call for a culture of philanthropy to replace the hand out culture, I have a suggestion for the millionaire axe men of the Coalition government. 

After the Comprehensive Spending Review, David Cameron should order each government minister to publish details of his or her charitable giving and the number of days a year they spend on voluntary work.

This, after all, is what they are demanding of the rest of us. The richer members of  society will now be expected to underwrite the arts and the charitable sector, while the rest of us volunteer to take on the functions of the public sector. 

On Depatches last night, my old friend Antony Barnett's revelations about Andrew Mitchell and Philip Hammond's financial affairs showed, at the very least, that the pair have a bob or two between them, so let them show how much they are contributing to the Big Society.

Better still, why not insist that every minister with personal wealth of over, say, half a million, establish a charitable foundation within their own policy remit to take over a chuck of state provision and save the taxpayer some money. It would be the perfect way to pay back some of the cash they have saved on their - no doubt perfectly legal - tax dodges. 

And before anyone accuses me of indulging in the culture of resentment, I will personally pledge to use my own charity to provide each one of them with an 18-24 year old on a six-month placement to help them establish their foundation.