Monday, 19 April 2010

Big society

Okay, first things first: I am married to a councillor and am a school governor, Chair for the past 2 years. So I think I know a bit about my local community and I suspect that it is fairly representative of the national picture. I see no evidence of a reservoir of popular outrage ready to be channelled into progressive action. In my experience as a school governor, people can be persuaded to volunteer for one-off events or to deal with a specific project but the greater the degree of commitment required, the more difficult it is to recruit volunteers. People generally mobilise themselves into action over single issues eg uniting against a building development or a campaign to save a hospital from closure. In many ways, those of us who are school governors are just the same, the single issue being our children's education, only the time frame is extended.

So under Dave's plan, the various public services which are not working will be replaced by these volunteer-led organisations. What he doesn't explain is who is going to police them? A whole support structure exists for instance to ensure good governance of schools and even that's not foolproof. Who's going to vet the volunteers who want to take over a hospital or fire the local Police borough commander? And by the way, I'm not talking about CRB here, I'm more concerned about such organisations being hijacked by those with an axe to grind but not necessarily the skills to match.

And finally, for me the main problem with the whole idea is that it feels suspiciously like a smokescreen to distract us when the cuts come. If we all join hands, get together, feel good about ourselves we won't notice or mind that services we have paid for in taxes are replaced with something a lot less reliable, unaccountable and shambolic.

Ultimately, I want Government to do its job and govern or govern better!


  1. So I take it he does not get your vote.... !!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly Bermondsey Mum! When I watched Cameron's manifesto speech, I cringed. I just thought "God are they clueless? Has he ever belonged to a volunteer group?" I'm all for community action - being involved in your children's school, helping clean up the local park, dishing out food at the local shelter, etc etc. These are all worthwhile activities - promote a sense of belonging, buoy up are resource-starved public services, etc etc but volunteer groups are beset by lots of problems. It's not uncommon that the skill set required to achieve things does not match the enthusiasm of those volunteering. Also, and I speak from experience, the majority of tasks often fall to a core few within a volunteer group which can be divisive (and exhausting for those few). I want my public services run by qualified, experienced, paid professionals! If my local bank manager told me he was getting his kids in to 'help out', I would want a few more specifics than it's important for them to "be in control of things that matter to them". Come on David.. how's it going to work then?????

  3. I agree. Community action is great as an addition to proper bought and paid for services, but so often you honestly do need professionals.
    I've been involved in my share of volunteer groups and they do a lot of good work but as EOM said, they can also be a shambles with the good people carrying the useless ones.