Monday, 19 July 2010

IS MR CAMERON'S BIG SOCIETY REALISTIC?


“It’s my hope and my mission that when people look back at this 5, 10-year period from 2010, they’ll say: ‘In Britain they didn’t just pay down the deficit, they didn’t just balance the books, they didn’t just get the economy moving again, they did something really exciting in their society’.”

So said the prime minister today launching his Big Society scheme in Liverpool, England.

He said that he wanted forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, community-minded people and neighbourhoods in the country to come forward and ask for freedoms, and support, to run services in their areas.

“If you’ve got an idea to make life better, if you want to improve your local area, don’t just think about it, tell us what you want to do and we will try and give you the tools to make this happen.

But there are worries that there is just no money for this project. Councils are cutting back on funding voluntary groups, and the Big Society Bank set up by Mr Cameron and funded by bank accounts which have not been touched for 15 years has only £60 million in funds, a drop in the ocean when it comes to running services.

It is also not clear how much this will cost, with dedicated Civil Servants (are there any left?) being appointed to help groups with applications for money and aiding them through the inevitable bureaucratic nightmare that funding always involves.

Additionally there are doubts as to how effective (and cost effective) some of the projects would be.

I’m also concerned that the Big Society will see money going to well organized middle class groups in leafy suburbs (the four pilot areas are leafy suburb, rural or gentrified). The scheme seems perfectly suited to people who may have time on their hands to take over the running of various and sundry parts of a council’s remit for their own benefit.

And good though this may be, it seems like it may leave behind areas desperately in need of help People with low-paid jobs and hard lives often tend to be poor in time as well as money, and my concern is that the money will find itself in the hands of those who perhaps least need it.

If Mr Cameron’s wish is to fix broke Britain with his Big Society, I fear he may have to come up with ideas that create jobs in sink estates, deal with the horrendous problem of drink and drugs which render so many people unemployed and unemployable, repair the low quality of housing and infrastructure that make life so grim for people, and encourage everyone, not just the leafy suburbs, to feel that they are part of society.

The tragedy is that today’s Britain has so little of that.

Mr Cameron’s dreams are laudable but hardly realistic. When people look back at this 5 - 10 year period they are more likely to say that, just as under Labour, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer and broken Britain got completely smashed.

21 comments:

  1. Liverpool council requested to be able to launch some schemes in line with this announcemen - I strongly support Cameron in freeing our local governments to be a tad more ambitious.

    If devolution was good on a national/regional scale - why not devolve power, authority and capacity to local levels?

    The UK is too centralised, too bureaucratic - if the 'big society' is empowering communities then good.

    But I echo Tris scepticism, this is good - it must go ahead, but funding is short? Just how practical is this?

    If Cameron pulls it off, then very well done!

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  2. Oh yes Dea... I certainly have no problem with power being devolved. Those at the top have, regardless of party, shown that they are far from capable of dealing with power.

    My fears is, as you say, that there is no money to do this and that what there is will quickly be appropriated by leafy suburbs, populated by solicitors and bankers. The estates populated by Tesco shelf fillers and bus drivers won't manage to catch any of it.

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  3. ouch.. I meant, of course, DeaN

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  4. It's the usual gimmicks and ignores the elephant in the room. People want basics in their community like weekly bin collections, less health and safety legislation, less nanny state, less pointless recycling which ends up in landfill anyway. But all these little things that would make life easier aren't available because of various EU remits and targets.
    All Dave has done is handed us the rotten egg of regulations and red tape and let us worry about it. Nothing has changed. Just the mugs who have to administer the nonsense. And to top it off they're not even getting paid. Perfect !

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  5. Ha ha I’ve just stopped laughing at this latest piece of Tory lunacy, we.ll you either had to laugh or cry didn’t you. Where to begin? Well firstly it will be a busybody’s charter with those with the loudest voices or the biggest tub to thump finally getting all the attention.

    It will be so agenda orientated as to be a total travesty of social inclusion. Those weakest or most powerless will be left behind by those with the strongest agenda, the loudest voice or whatever. Worst of all it may divert attention from things that are really needed like drugs rehab to things that are not like a community library simply because the latter has a stronger more articulate voice.

    It won’t fix broke Britain one little bit and I notice that its four pilot areas are all well and truly fixed at the moment, would it not be better to go to s council estate with social problems and give it a whizz there David? Oh yes of course nobody would pay any attention and of course nobody really wants to help these people anyway. They will end up with even less and left even further behind. I can just see the blue rinse ladies of Tunbridge wells rolling up their sleeves to clean up sick in a rehab centre for alcoholics.

    It dresses up swingeing cuts as something else and lets the private sector in where it doesn’t belong.

    It’s going to be funded by money literally stolen from people’s bank accounts.

    It sounds good, but it’s not been thought out and will doubtless fall quickly by the wayside with the respect agenda and new politics and all the other things that sounded nice and got Dave elected.

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  6. R:

    The last Tory government gave us a selloff of public housing, the result of which is that now, with house prices sky high and mortgages thin on the ground, the poor have nowhere to live except high rent, low service, private rented accommodation (I should know).

    The advantage was that a lot of people suddenly thought that they had become middle class and so Tory voting (until they tried to sell their houses!).

    Certainly the short term advantage was that people cleaned up their act and looked after their properties, plastic front doors appeared and windows were painted various and sundry colours (some easier on the eye than others).

    But it was short termism. Council houses are a necessity in a country with a low or nonexistent minimum wage. Otherwise people simply cannot afford to live. That is why they had to bring in the new, and utterly unworkable new Housing Benefit scheme.

    I suspect that this scheme may be as suspect.

    But I think you're right. It's all very well hiving things off to busybodies, or even the well intentioned. people don't much care as long as things actually work.

    They do in other countries. Why can they not here?

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  7. I think it may be the fund that stop it working Munguin.

    I understand that the ban has to try to contact the owners of the bank account before they hand it over to the government for "good works".

    I wonder how hard they have to look...

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  8. "But all these little things that would make life easier aren't available because of various EU remits and targets"

    Leave the EU out of this! :P

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  9. Dean
    I make a point of mentioning the EU in every post. It's like dangling a juicy worm on the end of a fishing line ;)

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  10. Big society= BIG LOAD OF BOLLOCKS


    total load of claptrap which will get very little support apart from a few nosey busy bodies.
    what the moron cameron is suggesting people will do the work currently paid for in society 'FOR FREE'

    so who could do such a thing not many in a full time job nor any unemployed as they would be penalized for working whilst on benefits..
    who does that leave just a few middle class people with any old hobby horse which they feel like pushing onto others in the community...

    bit of victorian charity for the deserving poor and those in the underclass who really just do not know how to behave proper!

    no more big state or even a small one just a voluntary unpaid sector doing everything for those currently dependent on the state.


    crap total cameron crap

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  11. Sorry...I thought that was what community councils and groups were supposed to do Mr Cameron!

    There is going to have to be big changes soon with people working together for the benefit of the community as things are only going to get worst. What we are seeing just now is the death nell for the old capitalist system which is based on greed, debt and waste.

    While the economies are crumbling all over the world with the austere years ahead the next big thing that will put the final nail in this system - Peak Oil where demand exceeds supply, is less than 5 years away.

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  12. R...

    Stop teasing our Dean :-)

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  13. I fear this is true Niko.

    People have so little time these days working shifts, dealing with kids and trying to make ends meet. And there are so many checks that people have to go through now before they are let coach sports or work with old people, or handle money. I doubt that there will be many who feel like taking on a part time job...

    I can see it in some areas where the library or village shop may be run as a service by other like minded, maybe retired people.

    I hope that for those people, it works. I reckon though that that will be as far as it goes.

    I see there are no pilot areas in Scotland.

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  14. I see it working a little in areas where there is a strong community council Billy. These people already give up their time to do things for the community. Maybe they will get grants from the bank and oprganise fetes and kiddies groups in the holidays... who knows.

    Like I say I can't see it working in inner city problem areas...

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  15. I have to agree with Tris on this.

    For the most part, if local governments are volunteering to launch a scheme [or local people] then the government ought to make funds available to make those projects successful.

    And since my initiial reaction, the funding has been beefed out a tad more with the new big society bank [made up from funds from bank accounts resting dormant for 15+ years].

    But still, I regard this with scepticism, and will need to see it work in action first.

    But; I do believe in localism as far as possible so I certainly applaud Camerons principles - and hope it works. Makes change from decades of heavy centralisation.

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  16. And don't worry about me Tris, whenever someone mocks the EU- I look up at my EU flag for inspiration as I blast Ode to Joy into my ears :)

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  17. Hum....

    Yes Dean. The trouble is that that kind of money will not always be available.

    And the scary thing for me is that, at least at the moment the people who organise our local services can be ditched at teh next election; if we end up with some local retirees for example, with time on their hands running the library, how do we get rid of them when they only stock Mills and Boon books....?

    OK... silly joke, but there is a point underneath it.

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  18. Oh yes... and it's good to know I've no reason to worry about you Dean... Ode to joy, you say.... blasted in the ears, you say... looking up at the 12 stars, you say....


    Very exciting life you lead mate....

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  19. What has to be understood is that most of Cameron's, "Big Society", is mainly for England only.

    There's a good breakdown on Britologywatch's site.

    The dormant bank accounts he is going to raid to pay for this are apparently English only though that's not entirely clear.

    Under the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 any money collected across the UK has to be doled out to England, Scotland, Wales and NI in a predetermined percentage.

    I wonder if the Scottish Government is in for a windfall?

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  20. Well, it's been piloted there Doug, but I'm led to believe that us little Celtic people are allowed to apply for money...

    ...might not get it though as folk in London have the impression that all of us live between the boozer and the betting shop....

    I understand that there is a similar bill going through the Scottish parliament, but who the hell here has that kind of money they could forget about... apart from MPs of course.

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