I read a joke today that said due to government cuts, the big society is going to be downgraded to the medium society. Okay, not the funniest joke you’ve ever heard, but it rather sums up what the public think of the big society policy. For starters, they don’t understand it. Hardly surprising as instead of hearing about this policy last year, it appeared to be dreamt up on the back of a fag packet a few weeks before the general election.
The next problem is we have grown used to the state doing everything for us. I believe in free at the point of use healthcare, as do the vast majority of us, but why does the state have to provide it? The NHS is almost collapsing under the weight of its bureaucracy, but if you suggest we look into other ways of providing healthcare in this country, you are greeted with a barrage of abuse.
What David Cameron announced today makes me feel disappointed. If communities are to be truly empowered, they have to empower themselves. They have to decide what they want, not be given a list of choices from the government. For example, I would like an elected mayor of Hull. There are many who agree with me and many who disagree, but surely we should be allowed to have a debate and a referendum? Apparently not. We are not one of the chosen cities. I would like the option of trimming down the amount of councillors who serve on Hull City Council. All these multi-member wards are unnecessary. Why not have around 20 full-time councillors, devoting all their energies in serving their communities? This would also work out cheaper for the taxpayer too, and it may attract a better calibre of candidate. Once again I am not allowed to make this decision.
Why not allow local authorities to get their funding from a local sales tax, as advocated by Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell. This would provide a much more direct chain of accountability between local voters and local councillors. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself, because we can’t have this either.
Until I hear politicians using the phrase ‘change from the bottom to the top’, rather than ‘from the top to the bottom’ I will not get excited. The Big Society could work, but it will not when Big Brother is giving you the options. We should be able to decide. Just give us the chance. Please government; keep a low profile.