Stockton North’s Labour Member of Parliament has written to the editor of The Observer newspaper to counter suggestions in a recent article that areas of the constituency are tantamount to “charity deserts”.
Incensed by the inaccurate portrayal of Port Clarence and claims that the area lacks any notable charitable sector while suffering from an absence of social entrepreneurship to plug the gaps left by a dysfunctional state, Alex Cunningham wrote a response highlighting the extensive network of charity and voluntary sector organisations that underpin the local community.
The article identifies the devaluation of the “big society” as a priority under the Conservative-led Coalition and furthers claims made in a recent Centre for Social Justice report, Something’s Got To Give, pertaining to alleged shortcomings in Port Clarence.
“Whilst I agree with the thrust of the argument that strengthening our local communities has become a secondary objective behind a raft of ideological cuts in public services and a controversial programme of privatisation, I take particular issue with claims that areas such as Port Clarence are tantamount to “charity deserts” with no charitable sector to plug the gaps left by a dysfunctional state and little social entrepreneurship encouraging local people to run public services.
“I am in no doubt that the barrage of cuts to vital public services made by the Conservative-led Coalition, along with the slashing of funding for local authorities, has had considerable negative impacts on vulnerable communities around the country. However, to equate this situation – which has arisen through neglectful Government policies – with an absence of community sector participation and social entrepreneurship demonstrates perfectly the failure to understand local circumstances.
“The community of Port Clarence, all but abandoned by the Government, has worked extraordinarily hard to help themselves and, with a little help from other organisations, has produced many success stories. These include the excellent Clarences Community Resource Centre and the range of award-winning services it provides, a Horticultural Centre of Excellence, and a thriving Equine Association to name just a few.
“And as if this wasn’t enough, the response of the local community to the recent flooding in Port Clarence perfectly demonstrates the extent of community spirit amongst residents. The North East has been the subject of unfair commentary in the past weeks and months, and it is important to nip these inaccuracies in the bud before they are allowed to proliferate.”
The letter sent by Alex Cunningham can be viewed here