Monday, November 19, 2012

The Big Society...and other Fairy Tales

You remember the "Big Society", right?

It was one of those soundbites the current government liked to throw around way back when, up there with "we're all in this together".

As time has passed and policies have been unveiled however, it's become apparent that what "Big Society" actually means is "don't blame us, it's your own fault". It's the ultimate smokescreen, with "choice" being used to deflect blame away from local and central government.

Don't like the way your child's school is being run? Don't blame your local authority, talk to the philanthropist who paid for it turning into an Academy and can now set the curriculum to suit their own political or religious agenda.

Not getting a good enough service from your local NHS? Don't blame the government, talk to your GP who has suddenly found themselves in charge of a multi-million pound commissioning budget that they have no clue how to manage.

Miffed that your local police force doesn't have the resources it needs to fight crime effectively? Not the Home Secretary's fault, blame your local Police and Crime Commissioner. After all, you voted for them (or more likely, didn't).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that every aspect of our lives needs to be micromanaged by politicians. "Choice" and "small government" should not be dirty words.

At every policy trick and turn lately, the connect between local and national politicians, the services they provide and the users of those services is getting weaker and weaker. Firewalls are being put in place so that when services fail, the politicians can simply wash their hands of the whole mess and point the finger back at us, the public who voted for them in the first place.

There is some good news on the horizon however. In a couple of years, you'll get your democratic opportunity to give your opinion on the way the country is being run. Don't miss the opportunity to show the coalition just how a Big Society can really work together to sort out its problems.

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