The Big Society in Action

Political correspondent Nick Robinson hosted an interesting documentary called “The Street That Cut Everything” on BBC on Monday night. This was Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society in action.

A street in Preston conceded council services for 6 weeks. As a community, they had to run everything from rubbish collection to graffiti cleaning, benefits support to planning issues.

The result. At first a mess and then a little better. By the end of it, all residents were glad to be back to their real jobs and leave the councils to the jobs we all pay our council taxes for.

Whilst the Big Society idea made great television, it would’t last a day in the real world. Firstly, the community were at odds. Community spirit is great for the odd paint job, but big decisions needed leadership which was limited and meeting agenda’s non-existent.

Tackling issues that were personal and contentious served to be a problem for the community and rather than working together, neighbourhood gossip and bitching started to take place. Nevermind the attention to legislation and regulations that had to be abided by to collect old fridges, collect rubbish and clean graffiti. Their lack of attention and research left them with heavy penalties.

So does the Big Society idea work? I am sure there is a place for the Big Society concept of the community taking responsibility and having more power. However, there is only so much responsibility and power the community can take before you start dismantling a community. I for one value local councils for the jobs they do. Like most people, I would like them to do it better.

The Street That Cut Everything can be watched on BBC IPlayer


4 Comments to “The Big Society in Action”

  1. I caught a tiny piece of this series and so my comments are given somewhat ignorantly.

    The bit I saw involved various neighbours fessing up about the assistance they get – eg £300 for a carer to come around twice a week.

    I thought it very interesting that the neighbours all started falling out when they realised little nuggets of information about one another. It is tough – I work overtime to make ends meet and take home only 50% of what I earn after tax. When I think how long it takes me to earn £300 and the effort it takes then (at the risk of sounding a little Daily Mail) I feel annoyed that a carer is paid £300 to go around someone’s house twice a week to wipe their bum!

    My council tax bill is £200 a month to live in Hampstead. I appreciate that the money does some good but the only direct benefit I get from it is I having my bin bags collected once a week.

  2. It was amazing that people who had full time jobs had no idea of how a committee was run, meetings were held or how to organise themselves. Anyone who did show leadership was seen as a dictator and people did become quite selfish in seeing only their needs.

    However, in the end there was some unity.

    I think what this documentary highlighted was the lack of naivety or awareness there is around councils and maybe they need to do a better job of letting people know what they do and don’t do.

  3. Do you think Preston was chosen on purpose?

    The people may be in full time employment but did any of them hold managerial positions etc?

  4. Yes I do. Even if you don’t hold managerial positions, you are often exposed to managers who want to meet with you and so have some experience of how meetings are conducted.

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