Big Society

July 20, 2010

I don’t believe, as some of the Labour party leadership seem to, that David Cameron has come up with the idea of the Big Society solely as a PR mask for budget cuts. He seems to be sincere in his belief that increasing volunteers in running institutions and public services is a good thing to do. It is, but it’s not necessarily new or a pancea.

The real problem is that the question of money and funding the big society doesn’t seem to have been thought through. One project I am involved in – which aims to generate its own income to pay for community services and thereby create independence from the public sector – is in jeopardy because of government cuts. Government grant is needed to help start the project but the aim is become as independent as possible from government money over time. Banks won’t lend to good businesses with a proven track record so they’re not an option for new community projects – the only option is the state or charitable trusts.

 I’m not saying this project is more worthy than others but this is how most community projects work. Perhaps there was too little emphasis on independent income generation from the last government – but they were supporters of social enterprise and put money behind it – but not all projects will be able to generate income and nearly all will require some assistance. Almost all will require financial assistance.

I hope the Big Society works. But I suspect it might be a part of this government’s agenda that is quietly forgotten about and its good intentions drowned out by the deafening din of the impact of its economic policies.

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