When a consortium of public-sector and voluntary organisations in the North East bid to host and help run a range of local services from libraries to Jobcentre Plus, it looked the perfect model of what Prime Minister David Cameron came to call The Big Society. Hours of volunteer time and a fair amount of cash were spent by a range of entrepreneurial bodies, including Doncaster College for the Deaf, in drafting the bid.
The effort and expense seemed worth it when the local authority went for the deal that would really bring about joined-up local public services. But then the local elections saw a change in political colours in the May 2010 local elections– and the whole enterprise was ditched. So it is hardly surprising to find a very sour and cynical attitude locally to the whole notion of Big Society.
One leading participant in the bid said at a recent seminar on the future of public services: ‘The things we spent time and money on fell through. By the time the handover was going to take place, the agreement collapsed.’ And so much for the promises of Big Society, he said. ‘Many networks that link schools, colleges and the voluntary sector are being wound up and volunteers are being thrown out. You can’t expect them to climb back on board with new organisations later on. This needs to be addressed.’ (more…)The Policy Consortium on Twitter