So the world will now function on volunteers and good will! That is the essence of the Big Society.
It has been voted on by Gloucester City Council, Embraced even, according to the Paper (Though only by the Conservative and Liberal Democrats).
I’m still failing to what is new though. Councillor Fred Wood, on his Facebook page, claims that Quedgeley organisations are being that “Big Society”, but, in reality, they are not. They were here long before, and now they are having to pick up the pieces.
Cllr Dallimore thinks that “Big Society represents people like me, my neighbours and people across the city. It gives them a chance to finally be free, and to have the public, private and voluntary services we really want and for which we too long have been waiting.” What I don’t understand is, there has been nothing to stop people doing things like this before. We have done it in Kingsway with the Residents association, and I have done it a couple of times in the past before that. So why did the Tory Council not do something before now if that is the way they felt. They have had 6 years of leadership. As Cllr Smith says “People are proposing things that have already happened. That can’t be the Big Society.”
She goes on to say “It’s this assumption that there area huge amount of volunteers out there waiting to do the job when there aren’t. People seem to think volunteers can just take over and do the work being done by professionals and the service won’t be affected.” And I think she is right. Volunteers are brilliant, but sometimes you need more than enthusiasm. And I also worry about accountability, particularly where vulnerable people are concerned, like the Youth and Elderly.
But so many people now are going to be either working all they can to pay for all the cuts in their income, assuming they have not lost their job. They have to scrutinise all the government spending online, because that is how the government will ensure they play straight (read Emily Barrets blog about that). If they have lost their job, then they will be finding a job, or doing community service. So just who is going to have time to volunteer to run the library, or the youth drop in centre, especially when they either won’t be trained or have to pay for training themselves.
Look at it from the perspective of Maslows hierarchy of Needs, but make Society the subject instead of the individual, then people will be so near the bottom in terms of day to day surviving(psychological and Safety), that they will find it had to move up the scale, and volunteering for things is having that bigger view of neighbourhoods and networks (which I think is the Esteem and self-actualisation levels).
So, yes the Big Society will exist, because it has to. Will it do more, I don’t think so, It will build on what we already have. When we can’t get enough volunteers to staff things, then the Tories will use that excuse to close it as it is showing it “obviously” not required enough. To make it work we need to help people to give them the ability to do it. We can only do that if the support infrastructures are in place. Cllr Mark Hobbs tried to ensure that by tabling an amendment for support services. But that was rejected by Cllr Williams, saying “It’s not about money, it’s about people coming together.” – That attitude, Cllr Williams, is naive and is going to land Gloucester City in a lot of hot water.