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May 25, 2010

Big Society – but only in England

David Cameron’s Big Society idea was sidelined midway through the election campaign because people weren’t ‘getting it’ on the doorsteps.  Post election, the idea is back on the table and now sits at the heart of the new Coalition’s Plan for Government – full of commitments to transfer power away from the centre and transform the relationship between citizens and the state.  Exciting stuff if you live in England but it won’t reach Scotland. We have our own approach to all this – it‘s called the Community Empowerment Action Plan.  But fifteen months on from its launch, where are the signs of progress?

Big Society – but only in England

Click here to see What Big Society means for England

At the launch of the Scottish Government and COSLA’s Community Empowerment Action Plan, LPL welcomed it as an important step on the road to greater levels of community empowerment in Scotland.  However 15 months on from the launch, our view is that there has been insufficient progress and in itself, the Plan is not sufficiently radical or ambitious to achieve significant change. There are six key areas where LPL considers further action by national and local government is required :

1. formally recognise the community sector as a distinct part of the Third Sector by publishing a national strategy designed to nurture its continued development

2. embark on a genuine process of community empowerment marked by a commitment to devolve resources and decision making away from government and down to the most appropriate local level.
3. invest in a programme designed to increase the flow of assets into community ownership

4. recognise that community empowerment requires a process of capacity building for communities and that this cannot be delivered effectively if delivered by government.

5. recognise that revitalising the relationships between local communities and local government is fundamental to community empowerment and that the one needs to be seen as integral to the other

6. the community led response to climate change is widely recognised as being the crucial ‘first step’. Much more needs to be done to harness current levels of activity and link to the wider community empowerment agenda.