Headlines: February 4th, 2011

The Leader of Liverpool City Council has written to the Prime Minister to withdraw the support of the Council for the Big Society. Liverpool is one of four councils chosen as a vanguard area to spearhead development of the Big Society initiative.

In his letter to David Cameron, Council Leader Joe Anderson said none of the promises made to remove barriers had been delivered and the loss of funding will severely affect voluntary and community groups.

The Council Leader pointed out that the loss of over £100million of Area Based Grants to Liverpool has put many organisations very survival at risk. These funds, aimed at tackling deprivation, were widely utilised by the voluntary sector. Secondly, Liverpool’s extremely poor local government settlement means a huge £141million reduction in council spending over the next two years. This level of cuts will significantly impact on council services, including the funding of many voluntary and community groups.

He asked how the City Council can support the Big Society and its aim to help communities do more for themselves when they will have to cut the lifeline to hundreds of vital and worthwhile groups.

The letter went on to describe how Liverpool City Council has a long history of working with its local communities. The voluntary and community sector is well established and extremely successful with a passion and vision for the city and for the people they serve.

Joe Ashton said: “Liverpool has been doing the “Big Society” for many years. We call it “working with our communities” and it is something we are very much committed to. We pride ourselves on our excellent working relationships with our community and voluntary sectors, and indeed have done our upmost to support these sectors – as they are crucial to the success of our city.”

The Big Society is the Government’s vision of a society where individuals and communities have more power and responsibility, and use it to create better neighbourhoods and local services. When the vanguard areas were chosen in July 2010 they were promised removal of unnecessary planning regulations and of restrictions on local involvement in decisions about issues affecting them. They were also promised relief from excessive form filling which prevents local initiatives ideas to reality.

At the launch of the vanguard areas Ministers set out three actions for the Big Society to flourish: the right to know, the right to challenge and turning Government on its head. There was no mention of funding.

The other vanguard areas are Eden Valley, in Cumbria, Windsor and Maidenhead and the London Borough of Sutton.