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Using the real Big Society to undo the damage of Cameron’s Big Society

Posted on 8 September 2011 | 6:09am

I’ve been back from holiday for a few days, but am still not back in the swing of things, so apologies to anyone who has missed my political and other musings. Thought I would ease myself back in with a guest blog from Labour councillor Sarah Hayward.

It is worth a read. It is how people like her and trying to use a progressive version of the Big Society to make sense of Cameron’s version, which involves calling on charities to lift the load, whilst removing the resources they had to do so. It is exactly as she wrote it, though in that New Labour control freak way of mine, I did deal with a split infinitive by moving the word ‘shamelessly’ in the opening paragraph.

I hope Sarah doesn’t mind my grammatical pedantry, and many thanks for posting the blog. I hope your scheme gets a good response.

Dig deep and help a Camden charity survive

Alastair has very kindly given over his blog to me to plug shamelessly a new Camden Labour initiative to help support local charities through the maelstrom of cuts we face. We’ve just launched a new facility on the council’s website that allows people with a bit of spare cash to easily find local charities to donate to.

Like everywhere else in the country Camden charities face an unprecedented level of cuts. As a local authority we’ve historically been (and still will be) one of the largest funders of charities in the country through grants and contracts. Sadly, this great record can mean that charities are more vulnerable to our cuts. But it’s not just us. The speed and depth of government cuts mean that charities that have helped deliver public services face a potentially fatal loss of funding from all over the public sector. To name just some of the bodies who’ve axed programmes or cut funding in Camden: The Home Office, the Arts Council, Ministry of Justice, London Councils, the Police, the PCT.

The level of cuts Camden faces is pernicious. The Government target authorities with higher deprivation, like Camden, for higher levels of cuts. So we lost more as both a proportion and absolutely of our budget than better off places like Richmond and Dorset. Only a Tory Government can think it’s fair to hit places like Camden, Hackney and Doncaster harder than Richmond.

But what Camden does still have going for it, is that alongside the poverty we have astonishing wealth. And across the spectrum we have astonishing community spirit and generosity. That’s what gave me the idea to use Camden Councils high volumes of web traffic to a beneficial end. Many people who live here might not know about the youth club or luncheon club round the corner that’s now struggling to make ends meet and more importantly struggling to help people. So we’ve given generous Camden people an easy way to find local organisations who help people in our local communities.

The website’s grouped by theme so you can choose what type of organisation or activity you want to support. The donation is made via the charity’s own payment facility, so every penny goes direct to them and, if you’re a UK taxpayer you can easily gift aid the donation. Any charity based in Camden that works for the benefit of Camden residents can list so if you aren’t already part of the action contact me and I’ll make sure you are.

The donation page is just one step of a number that we’re taking to help Camden charities survive. Hopefully we’ll be able to announce something significant around business leverage next month. I’m determined that we should do everything we can to try to protect the local community organisations that do so much for people here in Camden. With your help we might just keep open the doors of some very valuable local organisations. So dig deep and help keep Camden charities alive.

Cllr Sarah Hayward

Cabinet Member for Community Development, Regeneration & Equalities

King’s Cross Ward

Labour Party

  • Ehtch

    BLIMEY! The sleeping giant has awoke!

    Posted something on your rare visitation to poetry post thread, along the lines of hope we do not see the re-visitation of cardboard city with this present regime. But it doesn’t look good, and they will be inhabitants of closer to home, rather than the characteristic wots-the-word-forgotten scots ones, sitting with hands to passers by from right out from the tories 1980s and ’90s memories. But it sure looks like it will be, with The City bankers still sitting back in their well upholstered leather chairs, taking us all as mugs.

  • Ehtch

    Ah yes – stereotyped scots homeless then, ’80s/’90’s, that is the word that left me. Soon it will be with a more local accent, with the housing London policy of Boris and friends.

  • Olli Issakainen

    The cuts are counterproductive.
    And they are not even necessary. They are only making things worse.
    According to an article in FT, GROWTH alone would have halved the deficit without any cuts or tax rises.
    But the Tory-led government wants to destroy the welfare state for ideological reasons.
    Big Society without proper funding is a joke.
    Without demand there will be recession. Recovery in UK is not on track.
    Services, manufacturing and construction are in stagnation.
    Private sector is not compensating for the public sector.
    Mr Osborne is slowly realising that he has got things wrong. Ground is now being prepared for another round of quantitative easing (QE) which means creating money by buying bonds.
    But QE has only limited potential, and will not be able to save Mr Osborne.
    We need to boost demand. We need to create growth and jobs.
    Stock markets are tumbling. We have had riots. Unemployment is rising.
    But George Osborne has lost touch with reality. He still thinks that Britain is a “safe haven”.
    But the low long-term interest rates he mentioned are signs of economic weakness!
    Britain cannot afford another banking crisis, but we are now heading for one. Nothing has been learned of the events of 2008, as banks and global imbalancies remain as they were then.
    Britain´s output is still below its previous peak. This means that Britain is in depression. And will be for at least five more years.
    Q1 GDP in 2011 was £56.3bn below the level of Q1 in 2008.
    The Tory-led government is pursuing rightwing Thatcherite policies. Its monetarist economic policy will lead to economic collapse in the spring of 2012.
    Big Society cannot offer security for all then!

    Ps. Greece and ITALY are about to cause a bad economic crisis in Europe. And the US will follow soon. There will be riots and even food shortages. And because of the “Arab spring”, a lot of refugees will come to Europe.


  • Richard

    Sorry to be picky but you overlooked the second split infinitive in the first paragraph, i.e. “to easily find”.

  • Ehtch

    jeezus Richard, I told you weeks ago, on conjugating some russian or something, let it slip by, as Pontius Pilot does here with Bwyan, in AD32,
    in Jewuwsalem,

    I have a good fweind in Wome called Biggus Dickus…

  • Rebecca Hanson

    While I applaud this effort proper insight into the nature of ‘The Big Society’ is not evident here.

  • Whatifwhatif

    As Paddy Ashdown has said, there will be a ‘sting in the tail’ to our activity in Libya. 

    It went far beyond keeping a ‘no fly zone’.  Gaddafi’s enemies were never to be assumed automatically to be the west’s friends (or friends to all fellow Libyans); the two fingers we’ve just received about PC Yvonne Fletcher’s killer is just the tip of the sting.

  • PeterC

    Brilliant initiative Sarah and I wish it every success. However, beware of the consequencies of its success. Call me cynical if you like but this could suddenly be adopted as a great Tory idea that could be used to set new  and tighter benchmarks for other authorities, giving  them ammunition to justify more cuts and vindicate the Big Society. I can see Pickles rubbing his pudgy little hands with glee. But don’t let this deter you in your good work.

  • Whatifwhatif

    As well as all the usual national and local charities in my SE borough Sarah, there’s one called Lee Oasis which among other things takes in OK furniture and safe electical items for people being housed.

    I don’t know how widespread this is, or how dependent it might be on helpful local church people but its locale has the extremes of Camden.

  • Ehtch

    Been banging on about Italy for years about their debt level, and wondering how they got away with it for so long. Greece has been living in fairy land in the EU, without natural resources to back their economy, rather than people going on hols there, which really isn’t enough, as in this Greek video, but looking at it, I wish it would, oh yes, nice bottoms ladies… mmmmm…

  • ambrosian

    There’s nothing wrong with “to easily find”. More than 60 years ago, Sir Ernest Gowers (The Complete Plain Words) criticised the split infinitive taboo and quoted Bernard Shaw, who also thought the split infinitive obsession was a nonsense.
    Splitting an infinitive is wrong only if it leads to ambiguity or spoils the rhythm of the sentence.
    Contemporary pedants should focus on genuine abuses of the language. For example, there seems to be nobody at the BBC who understands the difference between ‘deny’ and ‘refute’, or between ‘historical’ and ‘historic’.

  • Dave Simons

    The alternatives would be ‘easily to find’ or ‘to find easily’, both very clumsy in the context. Sometimes usage and euphony make grammatical rules entirely breakable. I also prefer ‘to shamelessly plug’ in the above context. David Crystal has a lot to say about split infinitives and other grammatical rules, and he is very critical of Lynne Truss and her best-seller, ‘Eats shoots and leaves’. I find myself somewhere between them – I can’t stand roving apostrophes and expressions like ‘would of’ instead of ‘would have’, but I find rules about when you use ‘owing to’ and ‘due to’ a bit excessive.
    By the way, good luck, Sarah – we all need some!

  • MicheleB

    Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr at the glitch again!

  • Richard

    Sorry, squire but it was AC who raised the issue, not me. If you are happy with the ” innit, er, um, like” estuary English with ethnic undertones  which prevails nowadays, then please proceed.

    By the way, have you noticed journalists , TV and written, who nowadays tell us continually that ” it is impossible to underestimate how important,,,,, (such and such an issue)…. is to someone………” which expresses precisely the opposite meaning to that which they wished to convey?

  • Richard

    AC raised the isue, not me.

  • Here’s a definition of The Big Society from wiki:

    The aim is “to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will ‘take power away from politicians and give it to people’.”

    Absolutely the right aim.  The problem was that the Conservatives had absolutely no idea whatsoever how to achieve it (and are behaving in ways which obviously militate against it) and sadly neither does this blog.  It’s not just about making it easier for people to donate money.

    It’s about empowering people to go out there and improve the society around them.  And for that to happen the people who are trying to improve things have to be supported by the policy which governs the area of society to which they are committed.  And this can’t happen if they are cut out of the consultation process as is happening in so many areas of society with this government.

    To really make the big society come to life we need to employ tools like mass online discussion to ensure that policy and people are properly connected.

  • MicheleB

    The blog’s last paragraph begins …..
    “The donation page is just one step of a number that we’re taking to help Camden charities survive.”

    Couldn’t you have asked what future steps are planned and how the donations received via this step will be used …. rather than assuming as you (seem to) have?

  • MicheleB

    BTW, wiki also says that The Spectator has applauded that “Cameron hoped to lessen financial shortfalls by raiding dormant bank accounts ……………………..
    that’s a very shallow way of thinking about use of dormant bank accounts (and what about unclaimed pension pots?).
    Yep, we should stop banks subsuming dormant bank accounts in to their own coffers but that does not mean it’s AOK for them to be absorbed in to this (or any other) Govt’s.
    I doubt (or hope) that everyone that has died without pointing other humans to their assets would be happy for this particular govt to gain  access to them.


  • Dave Simons

    It’s an interesting issue whoever raised it. I did say I preferred ‘to shamelessly plug’, which refers to AC’s post, not yours. I also said I was somewhere between David Crystal and Lynne Truss on strict grammatical rules and vernacular usage, so your comment about estuary English, and my happiness in relation to it, seems a bit superfluous. Incidentally the comment reminded me of a similar comment Chaucer made in ‘Canterbury Tales’ about the alliterative poetry written by authors outside London – not ‘innit, er, um’ but something like ‘rum, ram, ruff’.
    Yes I make regular note of howlers on Radio 4 and Channel 4 News and in ‘The Times’, and it’s not just a matter of ‘nowadays’ – it probably goes back more decades than I’ve lived.
    Thanks by the way for elevating me to the squirearchy, but with all due respect I always prefer being with the privates in the trenches.

  • Ehtch

    Charity starts at home aside, and all that, why bark as if you are making out as if you’re battling the present government?

    This coalition is divisional, is what I way.

  • Good point.
    What future steps are planned?

  • MicheleB

    Shouldn’t you have made it an open post to the author of the blog then?

    In hopes my ID comes up as it should on this post, I’m not hiding behind a second one, there’s an IT glitch.

  • MicheleB

    Shouldn’t you have made it an open post to the author of the blog then?

    In hopes my ID comes up as it should on this post, I’m not hiding behind a second one, there’s an IT glitch.

  • Seemed more coherent to keep it in the context here. That shows I’m looking in particular for options which will empower people to think for themselves and act to make a difference, rather than giving them options to do or not do things which have been fully specified by the people in power.

    Which is what this government is doing.

    Which isn’t what the Big Society should be.

    In my humble opinion.

    All comments welcome.  From anyone.

  • Tim R

    Oh we do love the Big Society; honest! Fkn morons, Saul ALinksy activities have been full throttle since 1997 and have cause countless murders, including Roual Moat and especially the community target Derek Bird. You bastards have got mass murders on your hands and when people find out whats going on, you will all be swinging on lamposts. Im so convinced, ive bought as many shares as I can of rope companies.