My job requires that I watch a great deal of news. Not just national and international, I watch news from all the different regions in the UK, so think I have a reasonably broad view of what issues seem to be topical in much of the country. One thing a lot of people seem to be concerned about is the impact of the forthcoming round of budget cuts that every council in the country is going to have to suffer. With that in mind, today's pronouncements from Cameron on his "Big Society" struck me as rather like robbing Peter and Paul. If I've understood the many news items I've watched on the effects the forthcoming budgetary cuts are likely to have correctly, many initiatives of the type he's talking about are partly, or in some cases entirely, funded by Council money.
Croydon Accessible Transport, just to pick one at random from the stories I've seen - a service mainly for disabled people to enable them to travel into town and get out, and see other people, reducing isolation and allowing a degree of independence. Not a service I'd ever heard of before, or one I pick for any reason other than it's a fairly typical example of the sort of thing society is already doing which helps people and generally can be regarded as a good thing, I think? Now I have no wish to misrepresent anybody on here, so will readily correct this if I've got this wrong, but my understanding from a local news report was that the service was at risk of cancellation because of council cutbacks likely to be implemented after the budget cuts hit. Isn't this sort of thing just a tiny bit of a contradiction of the whole Big Society thinking?
I assume Cameron just wants private citizens to step in and fill the gap created by cuts in this service's funding, and others like it? I imagine this is considerably less likely to happen in an environment of economic crisis, with most people concerned about their jobs, their mortgages, their kids' futures and who knows what else. It's well documented that charitable donation drops during times of recession. So what's he expecting to happen?
I recognise that economies were inevitable given the spending done to keep the economy from total collapse. But, to me, your caring, sharing, Lib-Dem-loving Tories are no different from the party they were when Thatcher infamously announced 'There's no such thing as society'. But it's all right. If you're on a comfortable income, you can expect a tax cut just before the next general election, whenever that may be, no doubt paid for by savings made from such cuts as these. The Tories will then invite everybody to vote with their wallets, rather than their social conscience.
Fortunately, there IS such a thing as society, but it's already big, it already existed before Cameron, and I sincerely hope it'll continue to exist long after he's gone.