Big Society On The Rocks

When David Cameron become prime minister he said that reducing the deficit was his duty but ‘Big Society’ his passion. So how’s that going?


The first thing he did was create a ‘Big Society Tzar’ by making Nat Wei the youngest member of the House of Lords, aged 34, and government spokesman on the Big Society. Eleven months later he resigned saying he needed to earn more money and spend more time with his family (I’m not making this up!). Strangely he didn’t retire for the Lords to make way for someone who could actually hack the job, so he’s now there for the rest of his life.

Young people are so important to society for many reasons. Labour invested heavily in early years and created Sure Start to make certain that people from every background would benefit. This government have now cut spending on youth services by £438m, which even Tory MP Tim Loughton says is “disproportionate”. Instead they created the National Citizen’s Service, a £200m scheme that is run and funded by central government and has no incentives or plan to get young people from disadvantaged backgrounds involved. They have robbed the poor in local areas to create a new central government scheme that disproportionately excludes the disadvantaged. Hardly the stuff a ‘big society’ is made of.

It’s not surprising that a think tank called Civil Exchange recently released a report saying that Big Society is “a policy better suited to the leafy suburbs”, and that a “big society gap” has opened up with levels of charitable giving, volunteering and social action strongest in wealthy areas and among privileged professional middle-class groups.

This is why some areas of our constituency, such as parts of Hangleton and Portslade, will never benefit from Mike Weatherley’s government – because people who don’t fight for resources are ignored with Mike Weatherley as their MP.

I was intrigued by Big Society and I still like the potential it once had. If I were involved in policy making for such an agenda I would have separated the policies into three categories: Neighbourhood, community, and civil society organisations (such as charities and community groups) and focussed policies to empower each of those groups. This government got the vision right but failed to deliver a coherent set of policies to deliver it. Once again they got the basics wrong.

Labour: We’ll get the basics right.
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