On Tuesday 20th July, national press set out David Cameron’s stall regarding the Big Society. Reports claimed that the Big Society is the alternative to Big Government. It represents a ‘kind of devolution’ in which local authorities, volunteer groups, charities and stakeholders take over the running, and the budget, of local services from central government. According to NuCon Cameron, this will free services from Whitehall red tape and the tyranny of centrally imposed rules and targets.
Silky smooth, the Big Society is a lie, and a very big one at that.
Power is not being devolved to a local level. Power is not being given to ordinary people. Instead, the already oppressive centralised government power and control system built up by NuLabour is being continued and extended by Cameron’s NuCons, to the lowest possible level - local communities and individuals.
The route through which this will be done is via politicised and networked Local Authorities, Volunteer Groups and Charities of the Big Society. And here "politicised" does not mean traditional Labour or Conservative - it means Brown Blairite Nulabour, and now Cameron’s NuCons - into which the Lib Dems have been fully absorbed. The NuCons are a cuckoo in the Tory nest.
Local Councillor’s are increasingly aware that democratic power has been stripped from them. They are managed, directed and bullied by Officers under Chief Executives who, with their huge six figure salaries, are bought and paid for by central government. Before the General Election, the organisation Local Government and Improvement (formerly IdeA), and the Local Government Association, were already informing Local Councillors that democratically elected councillors would be replaced in the near future by appointees. Why were we, the electorate, not publicly told about this emerging major change to our democracy?
Local Authorities themselves are no longer servants of the people, they are political controllers of people, and they work in ‘partnership’ with other public authorities, volunteer groups, charities and stakeholders. The last three, key elements of the so called Third Sector, are unelected and unaccountable bodies used to give the public a warm cuddly feeling. They feed off public money and are controlled by those who control the purse strings. Most of us are simply not aware that charity is now a £44 billion industry in UK, where the bulk of funds come not from freewill public donations, but direct from the government. Will Cameron be cutting this Third Sector gravy train?
The NuLabour charity Common Purpose is not only a key player in the political control process, its elitest leadership training is estimated to have swallowed circa £100 million of public money since its launch in 1985. Ex Tory party Chairman Francis Maude is a big supporter. Worryingly ‘Local Government and Improvement’, calmly talks of using leadership programmes and networks, including Common Purpose, to advance their central government control networks.
Digging deeper into the lie of the Big Society, we might expect that Richard Bayly, Deputy Head of the Government Office of the South West (Region) GOSW and Common Purpose ‘Leader’, might be feeling fearful for the future after Cameron’s pledges to dismantle the Regional Government Structure. But far from depressed at what the future may hold, Bayly is bursting with confidence. In a recent presentation to the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, he describes George Osborne and Vince Cable as offering a Brave New World. Key to this ‘new world order’ will be the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships or LEPs. Bayly indicates that as Regional Development Agencies are phased out, LEPs will be phased in.
Whilst providing true Tories with the carrot of dismantling EU style regional structures, Cameron is in fact wielding a stick by creating a hidden replacement. The sleight of hand represents yet another lie being peddled by Cameron to true blue Conservatives.
The role of the LEPs will be to “Provide the strategic leadership in their areas to set out local priorities, create the right environment for business and growth, tackle issues such as planning and housing, transport and infrastructure and employment & enterprise.” In short they will ‘direct’ and ‘plan’ key areas of our lives.
At this point we should surely ask....”Who are these people - our new strategic leaders?”
Bayly’s presentation ignores this key point of democracy. He explains that under ‘Governance’, a business person will chair meetings, with scope for variation, and the partnership will consist of a normally equal representation of business and civic leaders. He fails to say who will ‘appoint’ the Chair and partnership members, and under what guidelines. Democratic election to post by ordinary people is not mentioned, nor is responsibility and accountability.
Bayly presents a clear chronology of the movement from Regional Development Agency and predicts a Public Body Reform Bill in summer 2011. Strange that he doesn’t mention the Big Society, but then he really doesn’t need to, as it’s all a big lie. Cameron is not creating an alternative to Big Government, he is providing the means for Big Government to bury itself deeper into the fabric of our traditional democracy. Couple this with the integration of Councils and their public sector partners with corporate interests, and we are really watching democracy dissolve in Big Society.