Confusion Over Big Society Plan: UK Survey
20 October 2010 at 10:49 am
A survey by UK magazines, Third Sector and the Local Government Chronicle, indicates that people who work in the UK Not for Profit sector and local government are not sure what the Coalition Government's 'Big Society' flagship plan is.
Sixty per cent of people in the Not for Profit sector and local government think that the Government's Big Society is a good thing in principle – but 65 per cent do not have a good understanding of what it is.
The survey authors say however, that the Not for Profits make up for this by filling in the gaps themselves. Forty-eight per cent think the main element of the big society is "more social action among citizens".
The survey offered five possible views of the Big Society, with 32 per cent of respondents saying it is achievable in some communities but not others, 25 per cent saying it is achievable, and 22 per cent say it is part of an ideological attempt to shrink the state.
But respondents think that the three biggest barriers to achieving it are public spending cuts (51 per cent), a lack of agreement among local partners (48 per cent) and a lack of appetite among communities and citizens (44 per cent).
The authors says the survey was designed to test attitudes to the Big Society among staff in local authorities and the Not for Profit sector, who will be at the forefront of the Big Society agenda of stimulating community action and redesigning public services.
The survey says a higher proportion of Not for Profit sector respondents also claimed the big society was a way of justifying public spending cuts – 18 per cent, compared with 9 per cent of those in principal councils and 15 per cent in town and parish councils.
Only 11 per cent of sector respondents think the biggest single effect for their organisation will be "an opportunity to establish stronger communities", compared with 21 and 27 per cent for principal, and town and parish councils.
Readers of both magazines were invited to take part in the online survey between 23 September and 8 October. Nearly 1,200 people took part – 344 from the NFP organisations, 342 from principal councils, 369 from town and parish councils, and 142 who did not identify their organisations.
In May 2010, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron launched the Coalition's civil society program under the banner of 'Big Society' to create a climate to empower local people and communities to build a big society that will “take power away from politicians and give it to people”.
The PM said at the time he wanted his vision of a “Big Society” of community work and social enterprise to be one of the “great legacies” of his Government.
To read the policy proposal go to www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk [PDF]
To read more about the Big Society Survey go to the Third Sector UK website.