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, 2 December 2010

Hands up all those who know what the Big Society is. This is the big idea launched by David Cameron at the start of the general election campaign all those months ago. At the time, we wondered what he was on about. Now the skeleton of an idea has started to gain flesh and walk amongst us.
I chaired a meeting at Westminster last week in which this concept was discussed. The main speaker was Lord Wei who is tasked with turning a sketchy idea into policies which transforms our communities. There will be two pieces of legislation in the next 12 months which will attempt to do precisely that: the Localism Bill and the Public Services Bill. Our fog is about to be lifted.
The basic idea is that government is too big and the citizen too small, that too many decision are top down and not bottom up, and that this imbalance needs to be redressed. The government wants to empower communities to take more responsibility for their own lives upon themselves. This idea was first brainstormed in the bowels of the party long before the crushing deficit problems we fully understood, but fits in well with the new realities. As government retracts, as of necessity, communities will be given the opportunity to advance. There will be inducements in the two bills mentioned above to make all of this work.   Charities and community groups will all be empowered to step forward to help provide their local areas with the activities and services that local people decide they need. It is radical but the government is determined to make it work. There will be fresh resources available.
In our area we are well served by many voluntary groups which already put on events that are the life blood of the neighbourhood. The Big Society agenda should seek to build on that, not undermine it. Of course there are some things that only the state can do, but perhaps the line is currently not drawn in the right place. In the last fifty years we acquired the mindset: we have a problem, the government/council must fix it. Why? Why can't we, the local community, fix it?
One local group that needs no lessons from me about the big society is the Plympton Community Council which is holding its Christmas Fair on Saturday 4th December at 10 am at Harewood House, Plympton. Proceeds to charity. All are welcome.

posted by Gary @ 08:51