England & Wales

The Big Society is better but won’t help councils cut costs


LGiU Director Jonathan Carr-West is quoted at length in a Public Finance article on the Big Society. He argues that it’s a ­medium-term solution. That means it will have to develop alongside other efficiency agendas, such as the top-down Total Place initiative, that is arguably its antithesis.

Jonathan Carr-West, head of the Centre for Local Democracy at the Local Government Information Unit, says the demands of the Big Society raise enormous issues for local government – not least how to get people interested in participating in their local services.

‘Engagement’ is something that the previous government wrestled with and certainly never got right. It takes time and investment, which councils patently lack, and people need to ­understand the benefits of taking part.

Carr-West says the Big Society is a ­medium-term solution and councils will have to find ways of balancing their immediate efficiency agenda with a gradual move towards the initiative.

He suggests that the real Big ­Society issue for councils will be the fear that it will be used to bypass them. Cameron has suggested that a large part of the agenda is about reducing bureaucracy and giving people more freedom.