Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Big Society or Big Hoax?

Politicians love their policy nicknames don’t they and the ‘Big Society’ being flouted by David Cameron is the latest in a long list of nonsensical sounding government initiatives.

In a nutshell the Big Society is a new scheme to try and coax the British public into becoming more involved in government, by allowing them to run many local utilities and services themselves.

Sounds like a good thing I’m sure, by promoting the good old fashioned ‘can do’ spirit of the British people and giving we, the public, more control over our lives seemedly? Of course that is what I think the coalition government would have us thinking, whilst the reality is that they just want to palm off a load of costly government functions onto us, whilst they happily get back to their ‘important’ tasks like voting themselves another pay rise above inflation, while our pay remains frozen below it. Let’s not forget that it will also remove a lot of accountability from Whitehall if the likes of another Baby P or council housing scandal happens.

The whole concept of the Big Society is similar to telling a child that if they want to have more responsibility they have to endure boring chores, such as hoovering or washing up, whilst parents take control of the – seemingly at least – fun and important things, like choosing what to buy and driving the car etc. Except in this case we, the metaphorical children, are forced to sit back and voluntarily run the council committee for public toilets – unless of course the local council decides to do away with the expensive ‘unnecessary’ things like in Manchester - whilst the government get to handle matters like taxation and war with the bonus of a, quite frankly, overly high salary and living expenses.

At least in the child/parent analogy, the child eventually gets a crack at more responsibility as time goes by, whilst I don’t see our beloved leaders happily giving up the other responsibilities so easily. Then again maybe that’s a good thing, the last thing we need is someone like Noel Edmonds getting his hands on our nuclear arsenal.

However, despite how patronizing the idea of a Big Society is when you read into it, there is also the matter of whether it’s just outlandish wishful thinking. Sure, I’d love a country in which everyone acted politely; as smiling men with pipes doffed their caps; children went out litter picking for fun whilst singing songs about eating their five-a-day; dogs tidied up their own mess and where all the different cultures get together and have a jolly good celebration about how everyone is different and yet the same, but the cold hard fact is that isn’t going to happen.

The fact is today the government announced that inflation has risen by four per cent, interest rates are about to rise and VAT has just gone up. People can’t even get paying jobs so do you think that they are going to really want to volunteer for something we already pay taxes for? Then there is the matter the government is cutting many of the committees it wants to delegate to anyway. It seems that overall there is little to no hope for investment, so how will this twee little churlish dream ever get off the ground?

Also let’s not forget that people as a group are often too stupid and selfish to really get together and work as a group towards a positive society built on respect and volunteerism.

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