What is happening to Cameron’s ‘big society’ agenda?

Further to this post in which I noted that a recent Public Administration Select Committee report had called for a single minister to be put in charge of the ‘big society’, Pauline Roche quite rightly queried why — or how — this wasn’t Nick Hurd’s job. I thought it was a good question.

The answer, or at least a possible answer, is reported in today’s Third Sector Online which reports that the ministerial committee set up by Hurd to over see big society policy implementation and cross-departmental involvement hasn’t met for ten months….

To my mind this explains why the PASC was calling for someone to be given specific responsibility for ‘big society’ issues rather than general responsibility for civil society issues…

Update 16/01/12: Some interesting comments on this. One or two people have pointed out that the ‘big society’ has little political credibility…

But that is exactly what is interesting about it. That a centrepiece of Conservative thinking, championed personally by the PM, should in such a short time become  a fault-line not just in coalition thinking but within the Conservative Party suggests that bigger stakes than just this particular idea are at play. There has been a very good R4 programme about the roots — and future — of the big society idea, and still time to catch the second episode on the BBC iPlayer here.

  1. Conor Barry Reply

    The Government’s policy of a “Big Society” has produced nothing.
    It is best described as a political headline grabber that’s ” All Fur Coat and no Knickers”.

  2. Pete Millington Reply

    Was the whole thing reliant on local authorities and govenment departments handing over their budgets and services to us in the ‘third’ sector? That’s never going to happen left to their (LAs) own devices, only in a piece meal way driven by budget deficits not strategies. Anything approaching the concept I understood to be the Big Society would need to be introduced in a massive, across the board, systematic way, determined way across the whole nation, approaching the scale of the introduction of the NHS and rolled out over 10 years. Barry is absolutely right, nice idea, no strategy – it’s doomed Captain Mainwaring, it’s doomed!

    • Pete Millington Reply

      My apologies, Conor, not Barry. I was thinking of Barry Conor who used to be at Ring and Ride

  3. Alun Severn Reply

    Conor and Pete, Thanks for commenting. Don’t get me wrong: as things presently stand, the Big Society has zero political credibility — but that’s what interests me, the fact that a centrepiece political idea championed (for whatever reasons) by the PM has become a fault-line not just in coalition thinking but clearly within the Conservative Party too.

    There has been a very good programme on R4 on precisely this issue presented by Steve Richards called David Cameron’s Big Idea — you can still catch part two on the BBC iPlayer here:


    • Pete Millington Reply

      To me the basic concepts underlying Big Society are what many of us have been working towards and campaigning for and researching about for years. Whether Cameron intended it or not, he appears to have taken some of these fundamentally good concepts but attempted to incorporate them as part of the austerity strategy, a fire fighting measure instead of a seed planting strategy. They remain worthy concepts but being presented as you rightly say Alun as a shallow political idea.

      • Alun Severn Reply

        “a fire fighting measure instead of a seed planting strategy” — marvellously put, Pete.

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