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25 May 2011

Lord Wei steps down after less than a year

The “big society” tsar will leave his unpaid advisory role in favour of paid employment at a charity

By Samira Shackle

Lord (Nat) Wei, the so-called “big society” tsar, has left his post after less than a year in order to take up paid work.

Back in February, Wei announced that he was reducing his hours in the unpaid government role so that he could earn a living. That the “big society” tsar felt that working for free was incompatible with “having a life” prompted widespread derision of the policy, which depends in part on people taking up volunteering.

The announcement that Wei is to step down is poorly timed, coming days after David Cameron launched the flagging project for the fourth time.

He will not be replaced; the Downing Street Policy Unit will now take responsibility for the programme. A Cabinet Office spokesman denied that the move marked the scaling back of the project, saying there was no need to find a replacement, as Wei had completed the work of developing the policy.

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Wei’s new role with the Community Foundation Network, a charity that promotes “community philanthropy”, is not unrelated. There is, however, a crucial difference: he will be paid.