What is CAT?
Local authorities have the power to transfer land and buildings to community and voluntary sector organisations at less than market value where they are able to demonstrate that doing so will result in local improvements to social, economic or environmental well-being. Three-quarters of councils are now estimated to be actively engaged in CAT.
CAT is government policy
The Labour government piloted CAT in 2008 with its Advancing Assets for Communities programme. Birmingham participated with two CATs: Norton Hall and Perry Common Community Centre. The Coalition government funds CATs through the Asset Transfer Unit, providing detailed information about how communities can express an interest in taking over a publicly owned asset in their local area to one-third of all Councils.
“ The game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple”
Forget Birmingham’s children, the Le Grand review of Birmingham’s failing children’s social care department is part of a bigger national political game and Birmingham’s failings are Michael Gove’s opportunities.
Gove set out his agenda last November when he stated ‘I believe that we have not been either systematic, radical or determined enough in our efforts to reform the system of children’s social care in this country.’ (1) Going on to question why Children’s social care services needed to be provided by local councils.
All the better that Birmingham is a high profile Labour controlled council, that has been politically hamstrung by it’s failure to prioritise and improve services to vulnerable children in the city while simultaneously cutting them.
The well documented difficulties of social care services in the city over more than a ten year period and failure to adequately safeguard children have allowed the Government to appoint a Review Team whose brief included making proposals for alternative arrangements for delivering these critical services.
The Review has been led by Prof Julian Le Grand, and while nominally independent Le Grand has impeccable neo-liberal credentials as a champion of independent Social Work practices under the last New Labour Government and an exponent of competition and market forces within public provision.