Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 1 July 2010

During the election campaign one gentleman said to me on the doorstep that he did not agree with the idea of a Big Society, he was too busy to do anything other than his job and he wanted government to do everything else. He has a shock coming.
Whether we like it or not, the size of government is going to reduce over the next few years. There is not enough money to sustain such a far reaching presence of the state, so there is no choice. But some of us think this may become a good thing and we should turn a necessity into a virtue.
The idea of a Big Society pre-dates the welfare state during which we have got used to the state doing most things for us. It is the recognition that society is not just about government at the top and individuals at the bottom, but that there is a myriad of organisations in between all helping to create the activity, relationships and structures that make up a healthy social order. This is already obvious – you only have to go to a local fete or community fare to see the zillions of tiny organisations that help keep our communities thriving. Sports clubs, dance and entertainment groups, leisure activities, motor enthusiasts, horticultural gurus, charities promoting so many worthy causes, faith groups, cultural societies and so on; they all help bind us together and get things done. On Sunday, just before the 3pm event that shall never be mentioned, Jan and I attended the 40th anniversary lunch of the Plympton and District Civic society – which has helped to preserve our local heritage all those years. The night before we were at an event organised by the Plympton Community Council which oversees 80 plus smaller groups. The big society is already alive and well in these parts.
As the (often) dead hand of the state is rolled back, the coalition government wants this kind of community activity to strengthen and flourish in the future. Voluntary and charitable groups, often driven by people with a faith motivator, can do an awful lot to care for vulnerable people in our midst, which frankly the state has not been very good at anyway.
The next few years are not just about deficit reduction and getting the economy motoring. We have to inject new life into our welfare dependent state-dominated society. My doorstep friend will not be happy.

posted by Gary @ 09:52