Headlines: November 8th, 2010

The new economics foundation has warned that the spending cuts detailed in the Comprehensive Spending Review will result in a poorer, more hard-pressed society, not a bigger one.

The report Cutting It: The Big Society and the new austerity, provides an analysis of the prospects for the Big Society in the context of the Spending Review. From the analysis it claims that the Government wants the Big Society to pick up the pieces left by its public spending cuts, but the scale and speed of the cuts will leave civil society with an impossible job to do and not nearly enough support.

The report also argues that the Spending Review undermines the Government’s claim that ‘we are all in this together’. The cuts impose a heavier burden on networks and groups in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and reduce resources available to them. The conditions that make participation in the Big Society possible, and likely, are not equally distributed across society. Those who have more to start with will benefit the most.

Anna Coote, Head of Social Policy at the foundations said: “The Big Society shifts responsibility away from democratic government to self-help, mutual aid, philanthropy, local enterprise and big business. The cuts mean there is a much heavier responsibility for dealing with more acute poverty, unemployment, distress and social conflict. It is madness to imagine that in these conditions civil society can fill the gaps left by a retreating state.”

The foundation has called on Government to extend to the economy the central principle underpinning the Big Society, that is that power should be decentralised and people enabled to run their own affairs. This would give people more power to influence the way markets work.

The foundation also proposes key actions to make the best of the Big Society, including a clear goal of well-being for all, a gradual move towards a shorter paid working week, and more equal partnerships between providers and users of services.