The big society is David Cameron’s big idea. He wishes to devolve power to people, to communities and to users of services so that their voices can be heard,, taking power from the dead hand of faceless bureaucrats and official jobsworths.
It is unfortunate bathos that this great breakthrough in power and local accountability is initially four “Vanguard Councils” recruiting volunteers to allow libraries to stay open later. Still, it’s a nice idea – the sort of thing that would bring pleasure to anyone whose ever been a scout or a volunteer (and I mean that with no snark).
My problem with it is not the intent, but the likely execution. As I’ve long argued, Little platoons need rations too. Willing the ends but skimping the means (or skirting issues around the means, like whether it will be easier for Windsor and Maidenhead residents to raise funding for a new athletics track than it would be for residents of Felling) is a recipe for policy failure.
So perhaps it will be worth documenting every time this government cuts funding for a project that does exactly what the Big Society is supposed to do? It might be a useful exercise for someone in Labour HQ, or in the Labour Group of the LGA.
To begin – this week the government cut the entire budget of “National Tenant Voice” an organisation that exists to stand up for the interests of tenants in social housing.
Obviously, the Government will say that this national level group, representing the interests of tenants with 50 unpaid volunteers trying to raise issues of housing quality and policy issues is bureaucratic, unwieldy and so on, not at all like the groups they want to see prosper. Odd then that the NHS is setting up a very similar programme – called Health Watch England.