UK Politics

Big Society toothless, says Archbishop of Westminster

Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Image caption Archbishop Vincent Nichols wants more "practical solutions" to back up the Big Society idea

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has criticised David Cameron's Big Society initiative, saying it has "no teeth".

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has backed the prime minister's call for more voluntary and community involvement.

He added the idea could also allow the government to "wash its hands" over spending cuts.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the government was ready to launch more "tools" to help the Big Society.

These included the Big Society Bank and the training of 5,000 community organisers.

'Cutting edge'

Archbishop Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, told the Sunday Telegraph: "It is all very well to deliver speeches about the need for greater voluntary activity, but there needs to be some practical solutions.

"At the moment the Big Society is lacking a cutting edge. It has no teeth."

"We're now at a very critical point, with the philosophy of the Big Society getting clearer, but on the other hand the effects of the cuts are becoming real and there's real pressure about what will happen on the ground."

Archbishop Nichols said the government could not simply "cut expenditure, wash its hands of expenditure and expect that the slack will be taken up by greater voluntary activity".

He added: "Devolving greater power to local authorities should not be used as a cloak for masking central cuts.

"It is not sufficient for the government, in its localism programme, simply to step back from social need and say this is a local issue."

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