‘Localism’ and ‘Big Society’ are buzz words at the moment, both in media and government, but how many people understand what they actually mean? Does localism exist already and are you willing to get involved?
Some argue that the Communities and Local Government Committee report, released last week, heralds the death of localism.
The report described the localism agenda as ‘incoherent’, and there was a lot of criticism attacking the lack of clarity about what these terms actually mean.
Unsurprising, when a report by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) found that 78% of people feel that the government has failed to clearly define what the Big Society is all about.
What exactly is the Big Society?
So what’s your take on it? From my understanding, localism and the Big Society are sister polices which aim to devolve power from Whitehall to the town hall and local communities.
The Cabinet Office website uses this description:
‘The Big Society is about helping people to come together to improve their own lives. It’s about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities.’
Aren’t we already community-minded?
There are tangible programmes emerging, such as National Citizen Service and the Big Society Bank as well as the Localism Bill itself, which has just passed the second reading stage in the House of Lords.
But these fail to convince many people who feel that the agendas are rapidly crumbling, especially in light of the recent resignation of Lord Wei, the Big Society Tsar. In my mind, this criticism is unfounded, not least because it ignores the efforts already made by many to give to their community.
Certainly in Dorset, my home county, the villages are kept alive by community spirit. My sister regularly performs in shows put on by the village Foot Lights group, run by adults who give up their time every week (for free!) to make the productions happen.
But does this exist outside of Oliver Letwin’s middle class back garden? Have you seen any evidence in your local area? More importantly, would you be persuaded to contribute to your community as a result of the government agenda? This idea is all about us, and it won’t take off unless we start to donate more of our time and money.