Cameron addresses 'big society' concerns

David Cameron on the defensive this weekend
David Cameron on the defensive this weekend

By Alex Stevenson

The prime minister has addressed growing concerns about his 'big society' agenda head-on in an article for a Sunday newspaper.

David Cameron said he was "fully aware of the criticisms that have been levelled" at his project, which seeks to strengthen British society by devolving power downwards.

But he insisted the debate indicated the public were engaging with the concept in a way which showed that the 'big society' is "here to stay".

"Unsurprisingly, some people want to attack it rather than join it, but unlike so many other political ideas which are dropped or forgotten within days of being suggested, I believe all the interest and debate means we're on to something," he wrote in an article for the Observer.

The prime minister rejected the claim that the 'big society' is "too vague" by offering his own definition.

"It combines three clear methods to bring people together to improve their lives and the lives of others," he added.

These were "devolving power to the lowest level so neighbourhoods take control of their destiny; opening up our public services, putting trust in professionals and power in the hands of the people they serve; and encouraging volunteering and social action so people contribute more to their community".

He insisted the programme was not a "cover for cuts" by arguing that the alternative is to "stick our heads in the sand about this".

And he attacked those who say the 'big society' can only work in "leafy areas" by accusing them of "snobbery", insisting Britain's deprived places could benefit too.

"People have the compassion, flexibility and local knowledge to help their neighbours and communities," Mr Cameron wrote.

"Our approach will not merely enable them to build a stronger society, it will actively help them to do so."

Last week saw the outgoing chief of a volunteering charity say her sector was being decimated by spending cuts, a charge Mr Cameron addressed head-on in today's article.

He said the government was launching a transition fund to help charities prepare to bid for upcoming new contracts, offering them a scale of opportunity "which dwarfs anything they've ever had before".

Mr Cameron concluded: "This is not another government initiative - it's about giving you the initiative to take control of your life and work with those around you to improve things. It has the power to transform our country. That's why the big society is here to stay."


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