The Guardian, Feb. 11th 2011, p. 19
The government's 'Big society' risks widening the gap between rich rural areas and deprived cities in the north of England and the Midlands because of higher levels of volunteering in the wealthier areas, a report by Consulting Inplace has warned.
The Times, Feb. 7th 2011, p. 1, 6, 7
Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of Community Service Volunteers said that the government had failed to provide tangible opportunities for people to do more in their communities and that in some cases 'massive cuts' imposed on local councils had actually taken them away. She also said that ministers had misunderstood the level of responsibility volunteers were willing to take on, warning that they could not step in to replace axed public services. She added 'Once you close a library, there is nowhere for a volunteer to help. Few people want to be responsible for the library. Most people want to feel there's an expert on the premises. They are quite happy to issue and reshelve the books, but taking the final responsibility is a bit more than most people want to do.' Dame Elisabeth said volunteering activities should be introduced as part of national curriculum projects in schools. She also backed a US idea that ties the funding handed to public bodies to the number of volunteers they manage to involve in their activities. Other measures could include the introduction of national community service for 18 year olds and a programme to unleash the volunteering potential of pensioners.
Daily Telegraph, Feb. 14th 2011, p. 4
In order to raise funds for projects run by charities, the government is to announce plans for a 'Social Stock Exchange' through which people will be able to buy stakes in projects that bid for contracts to supply public services. They will receive a return on their investment as the project receives public money on a 'payment by results' basis. The government will also launch a 'Big Society Bank' to co-fund charitable projects, offering start-up capital alongside private investors. There are long-term plans for a Big Society university to train community volunteers and social entrepreneurs.
Daily Telegraph, Feb. 4th 2011, p. 15
Liverpool was one of four councils chosen to pioneer David Cameron's plans for the Big Society, which aims to give community groups more control over local services. The council has now withdrawn from the scheme, saying that the government's spending cuts have undermined the ability of community organisations to improve the quality of life.
(See also Times, Feb. 4th 2011, p. 21; Guardian, Feb. 4th 2011, p. 15)
Community Development Journal, vol.46, 2011, p. 132-137
'The Big Society' concept was launched on July 16th 2010 by David Cameron and the Coalition government. Basically it calls on civil society organisations to compensate for cutbacks in state services through a revival of self-help and social action. This reflective article discusses whether the Big Society is a golden opportunity or a poison chalice for the community sector.
M. Savage and S. Coates
The Times, Feb. 8th 2011, p. 6
David Cameron must intervene to rescue his Big Society project from the cuts. A government adviser said that the policy was being hit by a 'perfect storm'. Various members of the voluntary sector claim that the speed and depth of cuts imposed by local councils would make the initiative impossible to deliver. Charities across Britain will be forced to close this summer because of a funding gap that will leave them without access for several months to a new scheme designed to kickstart the Big Society. Charities were being targeted by local councils forced to make huge reductions in their spending. Local government cuts are due to begin biting in April but the Big Society Bank , designed to boost volunteering during the Governments austerity drive, will not begin handing out grants until the autumn.
R. Bennet and M. Savage
The Times, Feb. 15th 2011, p. 8
'£300m bank will not solve charities' cash problems' . Sir Ronald Cohen, the Labour donor called in to help rescue the Big Society project, has warned that the £300 million bank he is setting up to fund charities is not a quick fix for the damage done by the cuts. 'The bank . will be a slow process, but it is seeking to help improve access for charities to capital in the long term.' Sir Ronald has turned down the role of chairman because of his other commitments. He has agreed to set up the bank, which is backed by £200 million from commercial banks and up to £100 million from dormant or unclaimed bank accounts, to fund volunteering projects and good causes. The proposed bank will not invest or lend directly to charities, but instead to specialist intermediaries or brokers who are expert in funding small and medium-sized community projects and charities. In the long term, private donors and individuals will also be encouraged to invest in Big Society Isas that contribute to good causes. The Government will also allow the public to help draft legislation for the first time, as it attempts to show that it is doing more to push the Big Society agenda. Anyone will be able to comment on the Protection of Freedoms Bill as part of a pilot 'public reading stage'. They can record their views on the Bill designed to increase civil liberties, via a new website.<.p>
(See also Times, Feb. 14th 2011, p. 16)
The Times, Feb. 15th 2011, p. 9
David Burbage, the Conservative leader of Windsor and Maidenhead Council, while acknowledging that 'it is tough for charities', argues that the local councils 'do not have all the answers'. He believes that Liverpool's decision to pull out of the pilot project for the Big Society was 'a Labour council wanting to give a kicking to the coalition'. A Liberal Democrat leader on the council said that 'it's a very good concept but it has not really changed the attitude of the local council: unreconstructed, old fashioned, conservative. It seems to be more about cutting grants to voluntary organizations than trying to work with them.'
The Times, Feb. 8th 2011, p. 6
There is strong evidence that Mr. Cameron is losing the battle to convince the public of the merits of his Big Society. 65% of respondents think 'the Big Society is just an attempt by Government to put a positive spin on the damage public spending cuts are doing to local communities'.