Cameron urged to clarify Big Society agenda

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The Government has been told to produce a clear plan for its Big Society after a new study showed barely one in 10 people believe the Government has a clear course of action for the agenda.

One year on from the launch of the troubled initiative, an independent report shows that 60 per cent of the public do not think the Big Society will work as well in deprived communities and urges David Cameron to “fill in the blanks” on the programme.

The findings are published by an independent, cross-party commission which has compiled a report called Powerful People, Responsible Society.

The study embraces the Big Society as an agenda and states that it “should transcend party politics”.

However it criticises Government for failing to articulate a clear plan and includes research which finds that only 13 per cent of the public believe the Government has a clear plan for Big Society.

Also included is a warning that the Government risks alienating the very civil society leaders it will depend on to realise its vision, as research conducted by the Commission found that only eight per cent of voluntary sector leaders think the Government had a good understanding of the voluntary sector

The commission brought together politicians from across the political spectrum and civil society leaders including Lord Rennard, Nick Boles MP, Lord Boateng, the Bishop of London and charity chief executives such as Dame Clare Tickell.

Their report urges the Prime Minister to seize the reins in driving forward the Big Society agenda, and calls for a sea change in the way banks engage with the UK’s communities.

It also calls on banks to commit to reinvesting a minimum of one per cent of pre-tax profits for social good, and calls for a new regulatory framework to ensure banks lend to financially excluded communities.

Local council cuts also risk undermining the Big Society, with the commission calling on Whitehall to set more “rules of the road” for local authorities, as research finds nearly seven in 10 members of the public think councils should not be allowed to make disproportionate cuts to the voluntary sector

Chairman of the commission Lord Rennard, the former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats, said: “As a commission we truly support the vision of a Big Society. We believe that as a concept it has the potential to transcend party politics.

“The Tories do not have copyright on Big Society – its roots and its prospects of success lie with all of us, in Westminster and beyond. However Government’s current failure to communicate plans effectively is breeding cynicism and means they are in danger of leaving the public behind.”

mark.casci@ypn.co.uk