The Big Society project to hand power back to the people has largely failed against its own measures, leaving the country more divided, with less influence over decisions and receiving less accountable services, according to the third of Civil Exchange’s annual Big Society Audits, published on 20 January 2015.
Whose Society? The Final Big Society Audit finds that this high profile project – using its own criteria of empowering communities, opening up public services and stimulating social action – has not, despite some positive initiatives, delivered the radical change that David Cameron, and governments before him, have promised. Unless the lessons are learnt, it is likely that the next Government will repeat the same mistakes.
Here’s what some commentators and journalists have said about the report – Patrick Butler in the Guardian, Caroline Slocock in the Huffington Post, Michael Savage in the Times and Jason Beattie in the Daily Mail.
The real question is what happens next? Whatever name it goes under, the next government will continue to look for ways to give power back to people, to make services more responsive and to encourage local action. To do this successfully requires much better collaboration with local and voluntary groups, giving people a genuine stake in local decision making, targeting resources on those who have least, reviewing the way we contract companies to deliver public services and making sure major businesses give back.
Specific recommendations in the report include investment in shifting public sector culture toward working more collaboratively, especially as more power is devolved locally; a review of public sector commissioning and procurement; a civil society led Commission on using existing resources to create a fairer society and a summit with private sector leaders to see what more it can do to support a ‘good Big Society.’