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The East Dulwich Forum
Would you recommend your East Dulwich doctor, dentist or butcher?
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messageThe Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by silverfox 19 February, 2011 00:47

Margaret Thatcher said there is no such thing as society. Her successor, David Cameron, speaks of the Big Society.

What does he mean? Is it a fatuous term to disguise the cuts to public services - ie forget the idea the state will provide, it's over to you now.

What does it mean in practice? Dog poo outside your house, forget calling the council, clear it up yourself and form a neighbourhood watch committee to deter bad dog owners?

If the big society is really about empowering people and communities why not divert the cash to those communities to use on their own local services. So if the local library closes but creches are maintained that is the decision of the community, not the local council.

Strikes me this is a huge idea, not thought through, with huge implications.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Huguenot 19 February, 2011 08:15

I think Cameron thinks he is diverting the cash, except he also thinks he's introducing an element of choice by making payment a question of local patronage rather than the administration of central taxation.

His Big Society vision doesn't really cover essential services like rubbish collection and dog poo, it covers things that he doesn't think government should be involved in like charitable outreach. He believes that anonymous central taxation and administration is creating inefficiency in services that the local community doesn't really want to pay for anyway.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by ££££ 19 February, 2011 11:33

| briandeer.com | DEFINING SOCIAL AFFAIRS



>> go to social affairs index >>




Wot maggie said

Epitaph for the eighties? 'there is
no such thing as society'
"I think we've been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it's the government's job to cope with it. 'I have a problem, I'll get a grant.' 'I'm homeless, the government must house me.' They're casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There's no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation."

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by peterstorm1985 19 February, 2011 12:51

££££ Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

There's no such thing as
> entitlement, unless someone has first met an
> obligation."

I'd like to see this sentence on the door of every benefits and housing office. [Perhaps I'd soften it by adding "or if you've made every reasonable effort to contribute to society" as clearly there are some (many) who need support due to circumstances over which they have no control].
Reliance on the state with no effort is something that has become prevalent in bigger cities because it's so easy to assume that the anonymous 'they' will sort things out but expect nothing in return.

This is why I don't understand the use of the word 'Big' in Big Society. In smaller communities there is much more self help as the local authority cannot provide the same level of services to a population spread over much greater areas. So local people help local people. There is less of the 'they should sort it' because 'they' are people you know, and the chances are that 'they' will be at your door asking you to help with running someone to the doctor, or clearing the snow off the path to the church.
I would understand it more - and I think others would too - if it was changed to something like the considerate/caring/neighbourhood society.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by nashoi 19 February, 2011 13:12

The interview that quote was taken from:

There's no such thing as society

Apart from the idiotic headline quote much of that interview could have come from Major/Blair/Brown/Cameron, take your pick, there's nothing new hear. Balancing rights and responsibilities wasn't Thatchers idea or even from the right at all.

All governments like to devolve responsibility for cuts and centralise credit for spending. Although decentralisation should really be Tory territory, with the devolution of Scotland and Wales Labour achieved more than Thatcher ever did, but when it comes to the big departments of Health and Education they just can't help themselves. The only reason this policy might actually have any significance is because Cameron's hand is being forced. I think Miliband's acceptance speech was telling, plenty of talk of a new generation and new faces, but none of new ideas, because there won't be any just new packaging.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2011:02:19:14:09:28 by nashoi.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by SeanMacGabhann 19 February, 2011 18:11

So remind me... Who exactly isn't meeting their obligations that they can be condemned as unworthy of entitlements? The hundreds of thousands losing their jobs? They have not met their obligations? Am I misunderstanding or misrepresenting the last few posts?

As waiting times rise on the nhs, those affected are not entitled?

Who exactly has pissed on so many chips that such prattle passes for thinking Peter? On the door of every benefits office indeed...

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by nashoi 19 February, 2011 19:32

Quote:
SMG
Am I misunderstanding or misrepresenting the last few posts?

Well just speaking for myself, I think so. So just to try and clarify, my point was that there is nothing new in a lot of Cameron's rhetoric. Politicians are forever promising to hand power back to the people, it sounds great on tv, it's just that they very rarely get around to doing it.

British politicians have a great track record in making fine speeches then not actually doing very much. Under normal circumstances all this could just be safely ignored, unfortunately these aren't normal circumstances Cameron is going to cut services in a way Thatcher never did.

As far as I'm aware though Cameron hasn't said the Big Society should replace the NHS or unemployment benefit and ..er neither have I.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by SeanMacGabhann 19 February, 2011 19:37

nashoi - fair point and I didn't really take issue with your earlier posts but it was more Peter's post (possibly prompted by quids) that riled me

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by katie1997 19 February, 2011 23:36

Quote:
Strikes me this is a huge idea, not thought through, with huge implications

Hmmmm - 'The Big Society'.

Two major u-turns so far (@#$%& forests - un-@#$%&-believable) - it strikes me that the present Government are treating being in power like an exercise set by their Eton House Masters and now they are waiting on the adults to come in and sort out the mess.

Once their assignments have been marked.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by peterstorm1985 20 February, 2011 14:00

SeanMacGabhann Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> Who exactly has pissed on so many chips that such
> prattle passes for thinking Peter? On the door of
> every benefits office indeed...

You are very choosy in what you read, and how you read it, aren't you? I see nothing wrong in having a reminder of the balance of obligations and rights on every benefits office door; everyone who knows they've met their obligations can pass through confident they have a right to do so.

Perhaps you think that I have never passed through the door of a benefits office; I can assure you that I have. And on the other side I found a reasonable percentage who had, like me, lost their jobs due to recession, or had other perfectly good reasons for seeking support from the state. But I also saw far too many who were abusive to the staff, who sat their young and able bottoms on the only chairs while less able stood. I've sat in 'back to work' discussion groups and heard physically fit people refuse to even contemplate doing voluntary work to enhance their CVs and moan that they're not being handed jobs on a plate.
If there are people who aren't prepared to 'do their bit' then they need to be told that society (big, small, whatever) expects more of them.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 20 February, 2011 22:32

A thought on Big Societ:


The Big Society is about far more than a political slogan - for me it's about the legion of people that run Scout Groups, Girl Guides, youth clubs, Saturday morning football clubs, boot fairs for charity, check their neighbours to see if they need assistance, clearing snow, running marathons to raise funds for local hospital, doing all this and much, much more.

Surprisingly Jeremy Clarkson set out a great example in today's Sunday Times. He is part of a fund raising organisation that supports a community run open air lido in Chipping Camden. He points out that it not so much about the £15,000 or so they raise every year - but that it brings together all sorts of people who would, otherwise, not meet or cross each others paths but that by meeting to raise the funds they become part of a community. So the schoolteacher gets to know the postman who also meets the butcher, the estate agent, the commuting businessman, and so on and on and on.


A practical example (from USA) - a good friend of mine, expat Scotsman, came down with a major, life threatening, illness. He lived in a medium sized town in Louisianna. His neighbours organised a rota to ensure his wife was driven to the specialist hospital, took his children to school, cooked meals for the family and had the children to stay overnight. All pretty good - and you might congratulate yourselves that "we would do that too" - excepth this went on for 15 months. That's a community looking after its own - and is the sort of thing that should be second nature in a Big Society.

BTW - my friends had only lived in that community for two / three years.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by citizenED 21 February, 2011 20:55

As I see it, there are two significant problems with the Big Society.
Firstly I can't see why Big Society has to be seen as an alternative to Big Govt. Surely if it is a creditable policy, then it would work better alongside fully funded, thorough Welfare State. Volunteering is more laudable if it is done out of true good-heartedness rather than out of a sense of compulsion or necessity.
Secondly, my issue is to do with the principle of fairness. I thought that recent European politics, with its focus on Human Rights had put fairness centre stage. To me this was a progressive development. The whole concept of the Big Society is retrograde in this respect as it relies on the ability and wherewithal of your neighbours; great if you live in an area like Chipping Camden but less good if you live in the many other less socially homogeonous areas.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 22 February, 2011 09:53

C ED,

I don't think this is an either / or question. The Big Society (lousy name) is complementary rather than competing. It's about looking for local, community based, individual and personal solutions rather than immediately turning to Gov't for funds and help.

We have become accustomed to expecting "someone else" to do it for us - whether it be clearing snow, assisting the elderly, running a library, organising a sports club and so on. Until about the mid '60s most libraries were run by volunteers supervised by a small cadre of professional librarians at the centrev of the borough or council, nowadays we expect them to be provided by the local council and complain when they are closed but complain equally when council tax rises. If libraries, or similarly government provided services, are important to the community it is incumbent on them to help find an appropriate solution to their provision - which may be gov't funded, charitably funded, funded through philanthropy ort staffed by volunteers.

Gov't should concentrate on the big things - foreign policy, defence, the economy etc and let more local arrangements flower in other areas - let a thousand flowers bloom!!

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by citizenED 22 February, 2011 13:43

If the Big Society is complementary and not competing with Big Govt, then why all the cuts? Why not just encourage people to be more community spirited? The Clarkson example, I an guessing, happened prior to cuts.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Ridgley 22 February, 2011 14:54

I agree with Sliverfox completely, poor old Cameron trying so hard to get away from Thatcher’s legacy by trying to revamp the Tory party into a copy cat style new Labour to appeal to the public that they are no longer the nasty party (look the claws has not come out yet)

There is an old saying no matter how you cut the cake it still taste the same.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 22 February, 2011 19:29

citizenED Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> If the Big Society is complementary and not
> competing with Big Govt, then why all the cuts?
> Why not just encourage people to be more community
> spirited? The Clarkson example, I an guessing,
> happened prior to cuts.

Cameron was postulating a political idea that has become to be called Big Society well before the coalition came into being. The cuts are not part of the idea - they are the inevitable response to the structural deficit inherited from G Brown & co.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Brendan 23 February, 2011 09:35

blah blah blah...

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Brendan 23 February, 2011 09:42

Sorry but that's just singing from the same propaganda sheet that we have all heard ad nauseam for the last couple of years.

Is the conservative leadership really that out of touch that they assume that everyone outside of their little world of privilege (ie the majority of the country) is an imbecile who’ll believe any shit they spin them?

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 23 February, 2011 14:40

Brendan,

Are you suggesting that there's not a structural deficit, or that it just a figment of coalition minds?

All government ministers live in a bubble no matter of what political persuasion, T Blair reputedly didn't know how to programme his mobile phone or send an e-mail on leaving No. 10.

To suggest that the current government is perpetuating some form of con on the general public is a foolish argument. While some politicians enter parliament to advance themselves, the majority (and here I include G Brown despite diskiking his policies, economic and political stance) do so in a sincere belief that their political credo will advance the interests of the country. You may disagree with the political direction and decisions but please allow that their decisions reflect their understanding of the situation and actions necessary to

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Huguenot 23 February, 2011 14:44

I guess what Brendan is highlighting is that some of the cuts are driven by economic necessity and others by ideological fervour.

To claim that all the cuts are driven by necessity is disingenuous.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 24 February, 2011 07:15

I would argue that the need for cuts is agreed across all political parties - it is only the pace and depth of the cuts that is in debate.

What I dispute is that the Coalition government is perpetrating some form of massive con on the public as an excuse for ideological driven cuts. That the placing / target of some of the cuts, in some areas reflect political ideas is neither strange nor unacceptable but representing the whole issue as morally wrong and bad mouthing this government is a poor argument.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by mockney piers 24 February, 2011 10:15

I don't think they're perpetrating a massive con, what I genuinely think is that they're gleefully taking advantage of a demonstrable need for debt reduction to push through an ideologically driven agenda whilst they can with realtively quiet opposition from the majority.

To call that morally wrong is pushing it, but it is entering grey areas for sure.

But luckily they are meeting resistance. Already the forest sell off plans have been scrapped, this wide agenda for privatisaion will fail, we've all suffered too much under disastrous examples, both financial and in terms of services delivered, such as rail 'competition'.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Jeremy 24 February, 2011 12:24

I'm with Huguenot and Mockney on this one. The need for cuts is clear, but it does seem to be a convenient fit for the Tory ideology.

Let's say that the Tories get re-elected, and they get the defecit down to their target level... will they start increasing public spending again? Or will they cut taxes instead?

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Huguenot 24 February, 2011 13:40

I guess that'll depend on the views of the electorate.

If cuts haven't been so dramatic that the schools are yet leaking, schoolchildren weeping, and the waiting list for a hip replacement exceeds life expectancy then I'm guessing they'd be looking to elect a tax cutting government.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by ££££ 24 February, 2011 23:31

The cuts will take govt spending down to the levels of the mid 2000s not 1991 - the massive, MASSIVE, increase in govt spending since the early 90s has seen some improvement in public services but it's not proportional and MUCH of that spend has gone on a massive expansion in PS employment and salaries. I suspect that this could be reduced significantly without detriment to services or going back to leaky roofed schools ( although it's clearly not nice for those that will lose their jobs, but many will be voluntary redundancy and natural wastage non-replacement of retiress etc) but the cries of cuts/cuts goes on and on the PS Unions (and the majority of Labour MPs who are sponsored by them) will continue with the Tory Cuts/Hopsital beds/Leaky roof, er, no Films Council, after all that's their jobs...but it is of course also an effective voice for a minority (self) interest group rather than the majority, who until recently were almost barred from discussing this in decent company..........

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by DJKillaQueen 25 February, 2011 01:19

The glaring point that is being missed is the inability of the private sector to create anything like the number of jobs needed to validate the verbal attacks on the unemployed. In many areas of the country, the unemployed outnumber vacancies 8-1. The private sector didn't deliver during Labour's boom years, and there's no way it will deliver during the coalition years. It's a misguided view of the economy.

So I can only be left concluding that the likes of Cameron really do not care that millions of people will be pushed to breaking point on benefits and low incomes that don't even cover the most basic costs of living, with no hope of finding a job no matter how hard they are squeezed.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Huguenot 25 February, 2011 05:48

Here in Singapore the government just made available $300m to any company that wants to create a digital product that will sell in China. In return the government get equity, but at better rates for the company than they'd get from business angels.

I'd prefer the UK government to do that rather than give hand outs to the unemployed. Especially because there's a return to the taxpayer at a later date.

Cameron doesn't seem to want to do either.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by RosieH 26 February, 2011 10:27

The Big Society, as a concept, is a great idea, wrapped in a terrible name - the 'big' doesn't accurately reflect the idea of millions of individuals getting involved in things that matter to them.

East Dulwich is actually already an incredible microcosm of what the Big Society aims to be (something for which this very forum is owed no small thanks): a brilliant sense of community, people getting involved, whether it's through SNUB, forumites lining up to clear neighbours' paths or run a people's supermarket, playing football in the park, Give n Take, auctions for charity. I actually feel very proud to be part of a community that's as engaged and connected as ours is.

The Big Society concept was launched before the Tories were in power (although to be fair, it seemed inevitable at the time that they'd get in). I honestly don't believe it was intended to be a pre-emptive fig leaf for swingeing cuts, however, whether due to Conservative ideology or coincidence of timing with the budget deficit, that is what it has since become, in perception and perhaps in reality.

The communication of what it is all about has been a complete abortion and I don't know whether it can recover, in spite of Cameron belatedly reaffirming his support in the last couple of weeks. But as a very basic idea, making it easier for individuals to do something about the things that matter to them, it has huge merit. Quite whether it can deliver remains to be seen.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by Marmora Man 26 February, 2011 13:33

RosieH - thank you for your words of common sense. I support fully your statement.

messageRe: The Big Society - what does it mean?
Posted by zeban 26 February, 2011 13:41

Me too!

And I agree about East Dulwich. I've lived in a lot of areas of London and East Dulwich is the only area where I've felt a real sense of community which I'm also proud of, and on a personal level really grateful for.

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