Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Cameron to reveal Big Society plan

David Cameron will flesh out plans for the Big Society programme

Community projects in four parts of the country are to be given help in a bid to kick-start the Government's "Big Society" agenda, David Cameron is set to announce.

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 will say.

A local buy-out of a rural pub, efforts to recruit volunteers to keep museums open and giving residents more power over council spending are among the initiatives being championed.

Mr Cameron will use a speech in Liverpool - one of the areas to benefit - to hail the potential for "the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power" from the state to individuals. The other three areas picked to receive the help with projects are: Eden Valley, Cumbria; Windsor and Maidenhead; and the London Borough of Sutton.

The PM will also confirm 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. Hundreds of millions of pounds should eventually be available in start-up funding as part of the push - which would see providers paid by results, he is expected to pledge.

Years of top-down government control had turned capable people into "passive recipients of state help", lively communities into "dull soulless clones" and motivated public sector workers into "disillusioned weary puppets of government targets", Mr Cameron will say in the speech. "We have to turn government completely on its head," he will suggest - so that it helped foster "communities with oomph", public sector workers with freedom to innovate and "a new culture of voluntarism, philanthropy, social action".

The Big Society Bank is based on legislation passed by Labour allowing money untouched for 15 years to be diverted to good causes if account holders cannot be traced by banks. Ministers hope the Big Society Bank will be operational quickly enough to see the first money distributed to groups by April next year.

The Government is keen to show it is working to help charities amid mounting fears their funding will be severely hit by massive public spending cuts to be unveiled in the autumn. Mr Cameron will say: "The potential problem is that you can lock smaller organisations out because they don't have access to start-up capital. So government has a crucial role to play in bridging the gap - and indeed, more widely, in connecting private capital to investment in social projects."

In his two months in Downing Street he had learned there were two types of Government business: things done out of "duty" even if unpopular, such as spending cuts, and those done out of passion. These latter were "the things that fire you up in the morning, that drive you, that you truly believe will make a real difference to the country you love. And my great passion is creating the Big Society".

He was due to add: "The Big Society is about a huge culture change where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace, don't always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face, but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities. It's about people setting up great new schools, businesses helping people getting trained for work, charities working to rehabilitate offenders."

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