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It mostly covers my work as UNISON Scotland's Head of Policy and Public Affairs although views are my own. For full coverage of UNISON Scotland's policy and campaigns please visit our web site. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Big Society and the cuts

A number of examples today of how the so called 'Big Society' is all rhetoric and no action.

The closure of Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offices due to council cuts illustrates the link between public spending cuts and the voluntary sector.

A CAB worker in an office being closed explained this well. Christine Drennan said: “We understand the financial stringency but it is strange that this comes at a time when the country is being asked to stand behind the ‘Big Society’ and volunteers. This essential service is becoming more essential. There is a misunderstanding that you can have people as volunteers without structures. You cannot. And structures cost money.”

Many hundreds of charities dependent on Government funding have agreements which expire in March next year. At the same time they face public funding cuts, other sources of income for the sector are coming to an end. Individual donations are falling as the public tighten their belts and many grant-giving trusts are struggling as investments stagnate.

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the Big Society concept has not been properly thought through. The Institute for Public Policy Research warns that the funding cliff edge will “undermine the potential of voluntary groups to fulfil the Coalition Government’s Big Society plans”. The New Economics Foundation, report 'Cutting It' goes further. It says, the scale and speed of the cuts leave civic society with “an impossible job to do."

I see that even UK government ministers are struggling with the concept. Delivering a speech to volunteering organisation CSV, the children's minister said: "The trouble is that most people don't know what the Big Society really means, least of all the unfortunate ministers who have to articulate it."

Ed Miliband got it just about right when he said the Tories were "cynically attempting to dignify its cuts agenda, by dressing up the withdrawal of support with the language of reinvigorating civic society."

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