Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big Society or Liberalism? Or both?

I note that Nick Clegg has been suggesting that the 'Big Society', as proposed by David Cameron, is not dissimilar to liberalism, as proposed by us. Well, yes... after a fashion, if you take it at face value. And that's the catch.

You see, liberalism is a philosophy which, if followed, guides a decision maker in certain directions, creating policy which has a consistent thread running through it, even if the policies aren't always consistent. The 'Big Society' is a concept, interpretable as one wishes. So, if Nick is trying to capture the concept, and make it safe for liberalism, then all well and good.

And there certainly are elements that sit well with liberalism. The notion of giving people more influence over how their local services are provided, indeed what local services are provided, is certainly a liberal one. Getting people to take on responsibility for service delivery is liberal, if they are given the freedom to choose whether they want to or not.

However, my abiding suspicion is that the 'Big Society' is intended as a cloak to cover significant cuts in grants to, and degradation of, local services to reduce the cost of central government, whilst increasing the cost of local government, i.e. a transference of liability rather than a genuine saving.

So, I watch the changes with a degree of healthy scepticism, but with a equal measure of hope. As a Parish Councillor, I am apprehensive about the prospects of being forced to take on responsibilities that my colleagues and I may not be equipped to handle. At the same time, the Localism Bill may allow the creation of new structures that bring decision making closer to our community.

There is much to ponder over the coming months...

1 comment:

Millennium Dome said...

I rather thought that it was the Grauniad's spin that was saying that Nick said Liberalism was the same as the Big Society.

Reading his actual quote it appears more that he is saying "we start from Liberalism and the Tories start from the Big Society and we both arrive at this localism bill".