BIG Society, shmig schmoiety… who wants to collect the rubbish in their free time? Without getting paid to do it?
OK, Camden Council chief executive Moira Gibb isn’t so abrasive in an article she’s written for the latest edition of the Local Government Chronicle and she is far more eloquent, but there is a pointed warning in there that David Cameron’s Big Society ideas won’t function properly if you strip back local authorities too much.
The leading industry mag is subs-only so I can’t provide you with a link, but in her 760 words she gives us a bit of history about Marx and North Korea and the possible roots of the Big S before supplying a defence of good local government.
Although the public sector is currently being framed as pure overhead, and public sector managers portrayed as fat cats even more loathsome than bankers because they feed directly from the public purse, the loss of the public sector and its managers would lead not to the nirvanha of the big society but to a breakdown in social relations and a poorer quality of life for all of us.
You can take them away, but you’ll only end up reinventing them. Try organising rubbish collection on a big society, street-by-street basis, and you’ll soon realise that nobody wants to do it unless you pay them.
And there’s a rallying cry too, for local authorities up and down the land to not sit back and watch as Whitehall wields the axe.
Rather than just keeping its collective head down and taking its punishment, the public sector needs to make its case more clearly. It needs to help the public understand the value it adds. Otherwise we risk the loss of much that citizens value though may not recognise till it is gone.
Go buy a copy for more from the chief exec’s office.