Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts

If the state is not prepared to help build voluntary local capacity in places like Liverpool, then who is? Asks John Popham of the cuts which threaten the "Big Society".

John Popham is an independent facilitator of community-based social media development, and a founder member of Our Society, a network that celebrates people-led local development

The “Big Society” has been much in the news over the past week or so, but not in ways in which its proponents in the coalition government would have liked. Liverpool City Council has pulled out of its role as a Big Society “Vanguard”, while Lord Nat Wei, the big society czar, has revealed that he cannot afford the level of voluntary effort required for the role. It may appear that a tide of negative publicity is threatening to overwhelm the whole project.

When a highly respected charity leader, who had initially expressed enthusiams for the Big Society concept, publicly condemns the way the thing is being carried out, then it begins to look very serious. Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, out-going executive director of Community Service Volunteers (CSV), is the latest voice to express the concern that the extent and speed of the public spending cuts is de-railing the Big Society train.

At the heart of this argument is a strange contradiction. David Cameron argues that the Big Society is about rolling back the state, giving more power to individuals and communities, and creating a society in which people take action to care for each other, rather than abrogating responsibility to government. At the same time, the prime minister argues that the cuts agenda and Big Society are not linked; that they would be advocating greater community control even if they were not having to make cuts.

However, there is an increasing realisation that the cuts make the Big Society impossible to deliver. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the state is being rolled back too fast; even if there were a queue of community organisations waiting to take over the running of former state services, the gap that is opening up is too big for them to fill.

The second reason is that there is increasing evidence that the sector being hardest hit at local level by the cuts is the very voluntary sector that underpins Big Society-type initiatives. As government withdraws funds from local authorities and other public agencies, they often find it easier to pass on a greater proportion of the cuts to the voluntary agencies they fund.

The website voluntary sector cuts has so far recorded more than £40 million worth of cuts to more than 200 voluntary sector organisations. The website relies on those facing budget reductions posting the information on the website, and so the figure represents the lower bound of the effect of the cuts. In fact, we are only part way through the first year of at least three years’ worth of cuts, which are estimated to be worth £4.5 billion or 40 per cent of the sector’s state funding.

At the moment at least, there doesn’t appear to be a queue of wealthy philanthropists waiting to invest in areas such as Liverpool, the one vanguard project which was actually situated in an area of extreme deprivation. If the state is not prepared to help build that voluntary local capacity, who is?

24 Responses to “Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts”

  1. Wayne Halton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  2. Matthew Zarb-Cousin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  3. Matt H

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  4. GORDON LYEW

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  5. checkpointcharlie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society £5 billion of cuts by @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS wrecking ball poster : //is.gd/86mc4j #craned

  6. Russell Smith

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  7. NMac

    There is no such thing as big society.

  8. Mike Thomas

    What part of voluntary charity do you have a problem with? Raise your money for your needs privately.

    Government-financed ‘voluntary’ sector is nothing of the sort, it is not within the remit of the ‘Big Society’. It is not a different name for Big Government.

  9. TreeOfMan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  10. downinjamaica

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  11. David Kane

    thanks to @leftfootfwd for mentioning the @vscuts website in their latest post: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  12. Syzygy

    This was obvious from day 1…. where were the mainstream media? I am appalled by how badly served we are by the so-called free press and the television channels. The worst example, has been the burying of the Lansley Health reform car crash under the wall to wall coverage of Egypt… was that a nice little foreign jolly for the correspondents or something more sinister?

  13. scandalousbill

    Mike Thomas,

    “What part of voluntary charity do you have a problem with? Raise your money for your needs privately.”

    Right, open another charity shop or take a collection bucket in front of Tesco or f*ck off.

    Where did you get the notion that charities are self serving? On what basis do you advocate that the manner of fund raising should take precedence over the work performed and benefits to society these groups provide?

    While I do not dispute that your stated notion of “Big Society” faithfully parrots the Cameronesque notion of so called citizenship, it clearly indicates the often stated position, that the “Big Society” is merely an ill conceived facade to mask spending cuts, has merit, .

  14. Three questions about the dying Big Society | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] >But it turns out that this is too simple. Charities are enormously dependent upon state funding. […]

  15. bob

    *On what basis do you advocate that the manner of fund raising should take precedence over the work performed and benefits to society these groups provide?*

    This is a defence often spoken, but really misses the whole point.

    You may argue that the ideology is wrong, and that the people of this country cannot be relied upon to be charitable, and that would be your right to do so (I argue people are becoming less charitable the more the state does). But the point of the big society is not “we are Tories and love cutting services, oh, and beating up grannies”, its “as Tories we believe that the state should not do this, but the people should”.

    I repeat “as Tories we believe that the state should not do this, but the people should”.

    The whole point of cutting funding to charities is that they are not charities if they are funded by government, they are not voluntary if they are funded by the government. And so they should either be tax funded arms of the state, or they should be charities, charities can’t be called charities and receive ANY government funding.

    Of particular concern is the moral quandary of government funding charities. Particularly with democratic accountability, who decides which charities are worthy, because it sure aint the electorate! Surely it should be the person donating the money, not a government department (when historically ever government has show poor money skills, like the famous “spend all the road money so we get the same budget next year). How many times have we heard of charities like ASH being funded by the government to lobby the government, just look at the fake charity website and tell me how many are worthy causes and how many are “worthy causes”!

    The whole point is that if these bodies do good works, then it should be for the electorate to decide that that work should be done by the government by voting of it, or for them to pay for it out of their own pockets.

    If they do neither, and you believe they do good works, then do something about it, don’t just demand tax payers money is given to “charities” by unelected means.

    Go out, fund raise, campaign for awareness, do voluntary work, DO SOMETHING. If these people or organisations do good work, benifitial to society, then it should become the responsibility of the people to make it happen.

    That’s the point of the big society, getting people to look after each other, rather than the dead hand of the state.

    Again, you may disagree with that philosophy, but please spare us the usual “the Tories just want to cut services because they are evil”.

    (Now saying all that, the implementation is a farce, but that is another long winded post)

  16. scandalousbill

    Bob,

    “But the point of the big society is not “we are Tories and love cutting services, oh, and beating up grannies”, its “as Tories we believe that the state should not do this, but the people should”

    The division you lovingly advocate denotes a clear division between the people and the state. It, by itself, is perhaps the most significant underlying reason why the Tories are so out of touch with the people.

    Do the people serve the state or is the state serve the people. You advocate the former when you say:

    “I repeat “as Tories we believe that the state should not do this, but the people should”. In other words, the context of your above statements advocates that rulers should not be concerned with actions or activities which benefit the ruled.

    While indeed this is most likely the defining common thread of the Sons of Thatcher approach, and I would not deny that it is currently being applied with full rigour by the Tory coalition, there are many who feel that the people should determine the actions of the state and the state should be accountable to the people.

  17. Tim Swift

    Failing the big society //is.gd/q8nKlI

  18. bob

    *The division you lovingly advocate denotes a clear division between the people and the state. It, by itself, is perhaps the most significant underlying reason why the Tories are so out of touch with the people.*
    Firstly the modern Tory party is about as true to it’s roots and as in touch with the people as gordon browns party was to labour, how else did they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last election.
    *Do the people serve the state or is the state serve the people. You advocate the former when you say*
    No, I advocate that the people serve the people, and the state serves the people through law and order and defense of the realm.
    *In other words, the context of your above statements advocates that rulers should not be concerned with actions or activities which benefit the ruled.*
    You really need to stop twisting words to fit into your caricature of tory thinking (evil uncaring tories).
    Firstly, what I have very clearly said is that the state should do as we ask it, not as it see’s fit, you wish to portray this as “the state should not care”. The problem with the state “acting in our benefit” is that the governments idea of what is good for us, isn’t maybe your idea of what is good for us, unless of course you agreed with the Iraq war, or CRB checks, refusing parents adoptive children because they smoke, etc?
    The point is that services should either be state provided, or provided by the people (charity).
    Where the left and right disagree is how much should be provided by the people, and how much by the state.
    What I am saying to you is if you want the state to provide it, then do it properly through the state, not do it arbitrarily through charity (and abuse the language of charity).
    *While indeed this is most likely the defining common thread of the Sons of Thatcher approach*
    I don’t understand the left’s obsession with labeling the right with Thatcher and such, such thinking was around long before her days.
    *there are many who feel that the people should determine the actions of the state and the state should be accountable to the people.*
    Right, but that is exactly the point I am making.
    The people should decide what charities receive money. You have no say in what charities government deems worthy of money and how much money, it’s purely at the whim of officials. Either the state should provide the service as a state service (so it is democratically accountable and you or I can vote for or against it), or it should be for me to give my money to who I want.
    //fakecharities.org/database/fake/
    Tell me how many of those charities the public voted for the government to fund, you know as well as I do the answer is 0%.
    And for every (random pick) Disability alliance charity the government gives money to, there is an ASH or Film institute charity they also give money to.
    I voted for neither to be given charity money, and would rather give it to my local homeless charity.
    If you or a bunch of people think that X charity should be given money, give them money, go fund raising, or campaign for the service to be brought in under state provision.
    Don’t argue that such decisions should be left arbitrarily for a local council or government to make, because when you argue for the government to give money to charity, arbitrary decisions are what you get (or we wouldn’t be talking about this would we!).
    And of course there is the simple argument that a charity is a charity because it relies on voluntary donations, tax money does in no way fulfill that criteria.

  19. Mr. Sensible

    The ‘Big Society’ has just been used as cover for cuts, and people are seeing through it.

  20. bob

    The big society isnt a cover for cuts.

    The whole *point* of it is to make cuts in public expenditure.

    To get people to do these things, rather than goverment.

    Argue that people can’t be trusted to look after each other, and goverment should instead do this through taxation if that’s what you believe. But don’t rubbish the idea by completly misunderstanding it.

  21. scandalousbill

    Bob,

    “I advocate that the people serve the people, and the state serves the people through law and order and defense of the realm.”

    YYSSW, …so the soldiers in Afghanistan are not people and people do not make laws?
    Again you create a false dichotomy. Ever wonder why the US constitution begins with “We the people”?

    “Either the state should provide the service as a state service (so it is democratically accountable and you or I can vote for or against it), or it should be for me to give my money to who I want.
    //fakecharities.org/database/fake/
    Tell me how many of those charities the public voted for the government to fund, you know as well as I do the answer is 0%.
    And for every (random pick) Disability alliance charity the government gives money to, there is an ASH or Film institute charity they also give money to.”
    Perhaps things are different where you live, but I do not recall ever voting for road repairs, rubbish collection, school dinners etc. But I hardly consider them to be symptoms of the decline of democracy or indicators of state encroachment. Overall, your definitions seem to miss the distinction between charity and philanthropy. Your homage to fakecharities is cause for concern, and not merely a political disagreement.
    Your selected site states with regard to the identified charities:
    “Additionally, these organisations will probably spend a large amount of their time lobbying the state to curtail our freedoms, although this is not a prerequisite for inclusion—after all, by applying to be recipients of the state’s “largesse”, these organisations are already actively colluding in theft and curtailing your freedom to do what you will with the profit of your hard work:”

    //fakecharities.org/about/

    While the fake charities misnomer may down go well in the Hayek heaven of Civitas, the notion of purity implied by their 10% solution is rather trivial. Politically, however, their polemics are the ranting of a deranged mind. The idea of say, the Age of Concern, to be considered as a harbour for tyranny, thievery and collusion would be laughable if it were not so demented. You do need medication.

  22. bob

    *You do need medication.*
    Typical of your ilk, makes assumptions on my arguments, misunderstand my words due to an inbuilt intolerance of other views, and resorts to insults.

    *Perhaps things are different where you live, but I do not recall ever voting for road repairs, rubbish collection, school dinners etc. But I hardly consider them to be symptoms of the decline of democracy or indicators of state encroachment*
    When a party put’s together it’s manifesto, it does not list every existing service and say’s that it will keep them.
    It lists what they will do different.
    When did you vote for councilors to give this money to charity, when did you vote for them to stop giving this money to charity.
    I think you know the answer to both is you didn’t vote for it.
    But please, keep arguing that councilors and government ministers should arbitrarily decide to give money to charity, quite why you think this is a good thing I have no idea.
    Quite why you are opposed to voting for it to be state provided, I also don’t understand.

  23. Daniel Pitt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Big Society faces £5 billion of cuts writes @JohnPopham: //bit.ly/dOT3BS

  24. scandalousbill

    Bob,

    “When a party put’s together it’s manifesto, it does not list every existing service and say’s that it will keep them.
    It lists what they will do different.
    When did you vote for councilors to give this money to charity, when did you vote for them to stop giving this money to charity.
    I think you know the answer to both is you didn’t vote for it.”

    OK, so you have the floor, kindly explain how the above is “actively colluding in theft and curtailing your freedom to do what you will with the profit of your hard work:”

    In addition to medication maybe you should get out more.

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