UK Politics

Big Society: Your verdict

The Prime Minister David Cameron has launched the 'Big Society Bank'. It's a £200 million pound project using money from dormant bank accounts to fund social enterprises.

Mr Cameron says it is his "mission" in politics to make the scheme succeed but critics warn that investment in public services is needed for it to work.

BBC News website readers give their verdict.

William Gray, Leeds

I work for Leeds Volunteer Centre and manage volunteers. Due to public sector cuts we're currently looking at losing people in our organisation and my job is under threat.

Image caption "Volunteering appears to be growing in popularity"

We run a valuable service and we are willing to work with the government to promote volunteering and widen its appeal. To do this we need to ensure at the very least we can retain our current staffing levels.

Volunteering does appear to be growing in popularity in spite of some negative publicity, but to volunteer people need guidance and support.

With proper backing we can continue to provide this and we of course possess all of the necessary contacts and expertise because we are already doing it.

The media and the politicians need to look at what local volunteer centres are already accomplishing in many towns and cities. This must surely be the hub of any drive to increase volunteering.

Louise Allan, Trowbridge

I and countless others already contribute to the "Big Society" by organising fundraising events, doing stuff for our church and helping out at local sports clubs.

Image caption "Its an attempt to put a positive spin on cuts"

I fully support the idea that people should look beyond the "me, me, me" culture and do more to help fellow citizens. However, the Big Society idea comes across as a poorly constructed and thinly-veiled sweetener. It's an attempt to put a positive spin on the vast amount of spending cuts and job losses.

It's just another vehicle for fat cats to get fatter because they'll have less staff to pay and can get things done, more cheaply. It is relatively easy to get people to volunteer for practical, fun activities, but most of these schemes rely on a substantial co-ordination effort by people in paid roles within organisations.

What will happen without such paid, skilled staff who have already been selected for their current roles? They are the ones providing continuity in delivering the relatively boring aspects of community groups, such as organising meetings, looking after correspondence, booking facilities, risk assessments, business planning and accounts, not to mention sorting out the funding for initiatives and infrastructure.

Alex Malone and Anna Cusack, Ipswich

No-one has yet fully explained the limitations of the "Big Society". What exactly can we, as average people, achieve in the Big Society?

Image caption "To get the best people you have to pay them"

My partner and I think that Big Society is a great concept. We like the idea of giving ordinary citizens the chance to take more control, even if we're unlikely to use that chance. Unfortunately, no-one has told us what we can do.

Can ordinary citizens topple the local council and run it themselves for example? Or can they just do mundane things like suggest building a new school or campaign for a new bus stop? Also, who's paying for this? If this is just a volunteer army nothing will be achieved. To get the best minds and most motivated people involved you have to pay them. David Cameron, please clarify.

John Woolmer, Shropshire

I live in a small market town that has been part of the 'Big Society' project for many years - without broadcasting the fact. We came third in the national Clean Town Awards thanks largely to our Pride of Place volunteers. We won the best station garden award from Arriva, thanks wholly to our gardening volunteers.

We were the first Walkers Are Welcome town in the Midlands, thanks solely to volunteers. We became a Plastic Bag Free town, again due to our volunteers. We are now aiming to become a Fairtrade Town.

On top of these achievements, we have an excellent Mayfair Community Centre with over 200 volunteers and community transport and over 130 social, sports and community groups and societies in a town of only 4000 residents.

The big problem is sustainability and the lack of funding. Most of our small core of 'rent-a-crowd' volunteers are over 60-years-old. Younger volunteers are almost impossible to find and most are unwilling to commit time and energy to volunteering.

Little can be done without funding and this is increasingly difficult to access. My view is that Mr Cameron needs to be much more specific if the Big Society is to take root and flourish.

The Prime Minister needs to attract younger volunteers and fire them with enthusiasm. All too often the social attitude seems to be an expectation of what the state should be doing for us - rather than what we could be doing for the state. Not quite a broken society but certainly a sick one that needs investment and medicine to help it recover.

Karen Bellerby, Chelmsford

I work for a charity that already provides local government services here in Essex.

Image caption "It's adding another layer to bureaucracy"

All this is in total contradiction of what David Cameron started off when he was in the shadow cabinet.

He said he was opposed to big government.

I think this scheme is just adding another layer to funding bureaucracy.

It is another layer of government and another way for Big Society executives to make big money for themselves.

Lorna Whittaker, Stockport

I think it's a really good idea. Everything in life is not about being paid. The government does not have the finances to fund everything for everyone.

Sometimes it's about pulling together and communities helping each other.

We have generations who expect everything for nothing.

There are plenty of people receiving job seekers allowance who could easily use some of their time to help others and voluntary organisations.

Thank goodness previous generations did not expect someone else to fund everything they wanted or needed.

The world wars would never have been won if the people at that time had the same mentality that a large proportion of the present population has now.

Richard Carter, Redruth

I find the concept of the Big Society somewhat insulting.

Image caption "I find the Big Society concept insulting"

As a retired public sector worker I have spent over 35 years volunteering, supporting people and working to improve the community I live in as well as the one I worked in.

Many people do all sorts of unpaid work for the good of their communities already.

Mr Cameron has coined a catchy phrase that is basically hollow and insulting to many people.

Mr Cameron's way of urging people to do more is a hollow philosophy, especially when a large number of the present cabinet are millionaires.

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