"With 60% of the population on weekly incomes either lower than or equal to their weekly expenses, it's no surprise 'Big Society' is losing favour ..."With 60% of the population on weekly incomes either lower than or equal to their weekly expenses, it's no surprise "Big Society" is losing favour among the public and some of its most fervent supporters. One survey found only 9% of the UK population believed the flagship policy would do what it claimed. Philip Blond, who first proposed the philosophy upon which "Big Society" is based, has distanced himself from the party and the flagship policy. Despite the policy's failure to win the hearts and minds of the UK public, the discovery of links between public expenditure cuts and worsening recessions, and the negative impacts on social indicators, there is evidence Blond's ideas have also found fertile ground in the minds of senior Liberal Party members. Blond visited Australia last year with the express purpose of "advising Tony Abbott of Coalition policy". During his stay he held private meetings with members of the opposition frontbench, including the Opposition Leader. Recent statements by Abbot such as "securing our future depends more on strong citizens than on big government" share much in common with the rhetoric used when "Big Society" was introduced in the UK. Liberal Party support for the ideals isn't surprising. Deficit reduction is a strong campaigning point for them, but they must contend with a public wary of service cuts and privatisation. At the state level this can be seen in the results of commissions of audit -- Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have all sought advice from audit commissions on how to best reduce their deficits. The final version of the Victorian report has not been released; The Australian reported that it "borrows from the 'big society' plans of David Cameron's government in Britain". The NSW report similarly reflects this thinking with two of the six reform themes listed as "devolution" and "partnerships and outsourcing", which echo Cameron's rhetoric of "community control" and "any willing provider". While decentralisation and the involvement of community groups in public services can both have positive outcomes, expecting such reforms to compensate for massive public services funding cuts is unrealistic. Experience in the UK is that the cuts only damage the community groups that are expected to fill the gap. It's tempting for the Liberal Party to present rapid and significant service cuts as a means to empower communities and give the public "more of what they want", but as Cameron experienced, the public will rightly smell a rat. *Cameron Elliott's Centre for Policy Development paper -- Whatever happened to the big society? -- was released this week
Warning to Australia: Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ failed in UK
David Cameron vowed a "Big Society" but service indicators fell and the public smelled a rat. The Liberal Party should consider its allegiance to the cause, argues Cameron Elliott from the Centre for Policy Development.