Big initiatives for the Big Society?

Mon, 04 Apr 2011 12:30 in News Digest
Dialogue Society News Digest

According to David Cameron, the Big Society Network exists to generate, develop and showcase new ideas to help people come together to do good things. However the recent government cuts has prompted the questioning of how much progress the government could make in the light of strict austerity measures .These news extracts show the initiatives councils and the government are taking to better the situation during this tough time.

BBC News – Tuesday 29th March 2011

Baroness Newlove‘s people power safer streets ideas

Lady Newlove, the UK Governments champion for active safer communities was made a peer by Prime Minister David Cameron after her husband Garry was attacked and killed by youths outside their home in 2007. Having worked with youth and communities across the UK Lady Newlove has written a report titled: “Our Vision for Safe and Active Communities. In her report Newlove said that people should start taking small responsibilities so that their communities may become more autonomous. Examples would be for residents to plant flowers outside their homes to improve the environment or carry the shopping of an elderly person. Newlove deems that agencies should give some authority to the local communities and people should start resolving issues themselves. Mr Barry the councillor for Merthyr’s Park Ward said:"I hope it works but nationwide I cannot see volunteers taking over in the way envisaged by Baroness Newlove.”

The Financial Times – Monday 28th March 2011

Big Society book-swap plan under Fire by Jim Pickard

The public will be invited to swap books with other readers under the “Big Society” project which will launch this week. Sutton Council added that this “book -swapping” was definitely not a cover for cuts .The Council affirmed that it didn’t have any plans to shut any of its major libraries; nevertheless it’s still looking to cut costs. This will be done by moving one of its libraries into a leisure centre. Additionally, the Council will look at its spending, its opening hours and volunteer program. It may also start sharing services with other authorities. Some people have been sceptical about the book-swap plan; however Gloria De Piero the Shadow spokeswoman said that ministers “were only removing unnecessary, old and outdated statutory burdens on councils- which excluded libraries.”

The Evening standard – Tuesday 28th March 2011

Ed conveniently ignores who is really to blame for the cuts by Chris Blackhurst

Chris Blackhurst watched Ed Milliband speak in Hyde Park on 26th March. Blackhurst denounces Miliband for criticizing the current government – after all it’s the labour party’s mistakes in the past years which have brought about all these cuts. Miliband even stated during the past government that “some cuts were necessary to balance the books”. Additionally in his speech Milliband did not take any of the responsibility for the errors incurred by the labour party or by himself for that matter.

The Guardian – Friday 25th March 2011

Lottery money to fund people powered change by Peter Wanless

The lottery fund may be the right answer in order for individuals to create their own community businesses projects during this difficult time. The Big Lottery has funded 14,000 projects in the UK since last year. Nevertheless “the Big Lottery” and “the People Powered Change” government plans need to connect to people in local communities not just the well-off. Technology can help community engagement such as the Nesta’s Neighbourhood Challenge project. However instead of looking at the glum side of things the public needs to look at the solutions and what can be done, the Big Lottery could be the answer.

Key players on the field:

During his speech at the anti-cuts protest on 26th March Ed Miliband said:

“We do need to cut the deficit. But we must also protect families struggling to get by. We must also protect the promise of Britain that the next generation does better than the last.”

On Lady Newlove’s project, the local Labour councillor Chris Barry said, “I’m pleased with the way that the project has been handled by the community. I hope it works but nationwide I cannot see volunteers taking over in the way envisaged by Baroness Newlove. I have my doubts there will be a nationwide pick-up on this."

Moving Forward:

Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has advised councils to consider their own spending before unleashing deep cuts on charities. Whilst communities are encouraged to volunteer more with local charities, Tessa Jowell, Labour shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said that confidence levels were at an “all-time low”.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations said that: “a third of charities will not be able to provide the same level of service in the coming months”.