David Cameron's flagship 'big society' programme is going nowhere, its supporters admitted today.
In a painful piece of timing, the comments come as the prime minister tried to reboot the coalition with a heavily-publicised mid-term review highlighting the achievements of the government.
But Stephen Bubb, head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, which represents 2,000 charities, said the aims behind the 'big society' were barely progressing.
"As prime minister, you described building a 'big society' as your 'great passion' and 'central to my vision for our country'," he wrote.
"You spoke eloquently of your desire to reform public services, with a significantly greater role for charities."
He added: "The mood music across Whitehall has been that reform is off the agenda. The reality many charities now face is crippling spending cuts."
The reform of public services was "glacially slow" in many areas, he said.
Speaking on the Today programme, he added: "There is huge frustration amongst charity leaders that these ideas about reforming public services don't seem to be going anywhere."
Many campaigners on the left criticised Cameron's 'big society' platform as euphemism for cuts to state spending.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams described it as "aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable."
Meanwhile, many on the right thought it was a flimsy idea which did not resonate with voters and cost the Tories seats at the last election.