Balls: Big Society is surefire route to a weaker society

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls today attacked the David Cameron's "Big Society" policy agenda, labelling it a "big con" leading to public services being run by volunteers on the cheap and a significant deterioration in crime prevention.

Shadow home secretary Ed Balls has attacked David Cameron’s “Big Society” policy agenda, labelling it a “big con” leading to public services being run by volunteers on the cheap and a significant deterioration in crime prevention. Writing in today’s Tribune, Balls says the 20 per cent cut to the Home Office budget will jeopardise the police’s ability to engage in a wider role of effective crime prevention, and calls the narrowing of the focus of police forces misguided.

He writes:

“… all the senior police officers I’ve met in my constituency, and over the last month doing this new job, recognise they cannot effectively deal with crime and anti-social behaviour if they view their role as being simply about ‘catching and convicting criminals’.”

Projects such as the Family Intervention Projects, though costing up to £15,000 per family, actually saved money said Balls, arguing that troublesome families, if not dealt with, can cost the taxpayer £250,000 – £350,000.

He adds:

“They [constabularies] know they also have a wider responsibility to work with other services to prevent crime and anti-social behaviour in the first place. The coalition doesn’t seem to understand this.

“And for all David Cameron’s rhetoric about a ‘big society’, the reality of the government’s policies look set to weaken not strengthen our society – because it’s not just prevention and early intervention which is facing deep and immediate cuts, but local policing too.”

Coupled with a 27 per cent budget cut to local government, Balls says the cuts to police budgets are all about “devolving blame” not power. and that front-loaded cuts – with the biggest cut of 8 per cent due in the year of the Olympics – render any efficiency savings obsolete.

He concludes:

“So this is the coalition’s big idea: shrink the state, make the security of local communities increasingly reliant on the good-will of volunteers, expect charities to fill the gap and provide public services for free, cut the very services which prevent crime and anti-social behaviour and devolve the blame just in time for when it all goes wrong.

“That’s why I say David Cameron’s ‘big society’ is a big con. It’s a sure-fire route to a weaker society and it’s time we exposed it.”

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.