Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Big Society Will Turn Government on Its Head, Says Cameron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Big Society Will Turn Government on Its Head, Says Cameron

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Waugh

LONDON was today put in the vanguard of David Cameron's "Big Society" revolution.

The Prime Minister announced that Sutton borough will be one of four testbeds around the country for his ideas of changing society by getting people to take over their own lives.

"We need to create communities with oomph -- neighbourhoods who are in charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them," he said in a keynote speech.

With a political row building over government spending cuts Mr Cameron insisted his bid to revive community action was driven by "great passion" rather than the need to save money.

"It is not a cover for anything," he said. "This would be a great agenda whether we were having to cut public spending or whether we were increasing public spending. This is not about trying to save money, it is about trying to have a bigger, better society."

Critics have claimed that the devolution idea is a way of masking cuts by off-loading state-run and council-run work to the voluntary sector. The four areas to benefit will be Eden Valley, Windsor and Maidenhead and Liverpool as well as the London borough.

Each will get an expert organiser and dedicated civil servants to ensure "people power" initiatives get off the ground and inspire a wider change, the Prime Minister said.

A local buy-out of a rural pub and giving residents more power over council spending are among the initiatives being championed.

Mr Cameron confirmed plans to use funds stuck in dormant bank accounts to enable charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to take over the running of public services -- the Big Society Bank, based on Labour legislation allowing money untouched for 15 years to be diverted to good causes if account holders cannot be traced. …

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