With public spending cuts set to bite in the next few years, the government has called on volunteers to make up the shortfall and help their communities. But just how many ‘good Samaritans’ are out there?
Have you ever wanted to run your own town? Well, now’s your chance. After the most dramatic public spending cuts for generations were announced recently, the government has called on the public to come forward and take a greater role in running their communities.
The communities secretary Eric Pickles stated that while councils would have to do ‘more for less’, the localism bill would ‘put new rights in law for people to protect, improve and run important frontline services.’ Frontline services such as care homes, children’s centres and libraries.
Cuts to essential services
In my first ever post on Which? Conversation I wrote about the sad state of British libraries. Unfortunately, the spending cuts are hardly going to help these money-saving bastions of learning – many councils will obviously prioritise health, transport and policing over libraries.
Yet, it seems even these essential services will feel the squeeze – for example, each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales are to see a 5.1% cut in funding next year and a 6.7% reduction in 2012-13.
Will volunteers save the day?
So, as part of his ‘big society’ plan, Prime Minister David Cameron wants us to step up and take control of our communities by volunteering to run essential services.
Now, this plan can be viewed in two very different ways. Is the government trying to get people to work for free while it tries to balance the nation’s books – or does it want to build a sense of community with everyone ‘mucking in’ and ‘doing their bit’?
Whichever view you subscribe to, the main issue is where is the band of volunteers going to come from? Many of us have a hard enough time balancing work and family life without adding more to our hectic schedules. Then there are those who already give their free time to charities such as the Samaritans or Shelter – should we really impinge even more on their community spirit by asking them to run our local leisure centre?
What we do know is that, in the wake of the cuts, we’re going to need to find these volunteers to help keep our communities running smoothly. So, will you be stepping forward to volunteer? If so, good on you. If not, what would motivate you to pitch in? All serious suggestions will be forwarded on to Eric Pickles.