Friday, 11 June 2010

Big society? Don't fix what isn't broken

I was at the Reading faith forum earlier this week and it struck me just how little the very people you would expect to be keen on the Big Society - the faith groups that do such great voluntary work, seemed taken with the idea of the council and government passing over more and more services to them.  After all they provide things that currently the council or government don't and their selfless volunteers only have so much time.  If they start providing social care to the elderly they won't be able to run lunch clubs.

Talking yesterday with a community worker (who has been rechristened as a social enterprise co-ordinator or something equally silly under the new regime - who said nonsense titles were the domain of the left?) she said "We're not all in this together, to them (the government) it's one less meal out, to others it's can they afford to pay for school dinners."

Senior people in government and the council seem to be admitting that many are going to be left high and dry who previously thought society would stand by them - whether that's the elderly, the mentally ill, families or children.

Voluntary and community groups are already doing so much to make Reading a civilised place to live.  Of course the government can't replace volunteers but neither can volunteers be expected to shoulder the burden of what the Tory/Lid-dem council and national governments decide is a price worth paying.

And for what?  Locally bringing back weekly refuse collections in marginal wards priority areas.  At a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds while leaving the vulnerable to suffer

I know I would prefer to wait a week for my landfill to be taken in exchange for knowing that an elderly neighbour is being given a chance to take a weekly shower or that my community centre is not being starved of funds!  And if anyone challenges me about that on the doorstep I will defend my view.  They say good politics is about hard choices, but this isn't even a hard choice for me.