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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Why I’m not a fan of the Big Society

The idea of the “big society” that the Tories are bringing out is the idea that instead of bumbling government controlling local services and instead giving it into the hands of the people – local people, charities, more direct accountability, blah blah blah. Call it responsibility, call it liberalism – actually I call it a bloody bad idea, myself.

The idea is that when we are in need we won’t turn to government to help us. We will be powerful enough to do it ourselves with our own communities. It means using volunteer organisations and community groups to solve problems rather than the state and state services stepping in.

Yeah. This is my not impressed face.

First of all – let’s call this what it is – classic Tory cuts. Because personal accountability, relying on charities et al are wonderful smoke screens for cuts. You cut the services and rely on people and charities to pick up the slack (assuming they do or can). Ranting about government waste is a classic way to remove government services – or privatise them -in the first place. Which brings me to the next part – how many private businesses are going to be involved in this scheme to bring power back to local people?

I see a lot of cuts and privatisation by the back door here. The same old same old for the Tories. It also talks a lot about “volunteerism” which, let’s be honest, means “screw you, help yourself.” That’s just a service cut and relying on unpaid labour to try and fill the gap. It means libraries and parks and after school services and homeless shelters and crime prevention and all the rest being slashed to the bone and if we want them we have to pay for them – privately. It’s a cut. It’s yet another Tory cut to people who can afford it least.

Secondly – when it comes to services I think government is the best choice. Government tends to be more accountable than private business and even charities – ESPECIALLY religious charities. And most certainly more accountable and unbiased than local community

Do I want my local community to take over local services? No. They’re overwhelmingly straight, completely saturated in their straight privilege and casually homophobic in a way that only Tory MPs can manage without any kind of repercussion. And if all these services and local facilities were in their hands I’d have 10 times the hoops to jump to ensure that they are not applied according to prejudice – assuming any kind of hoop jumping would work. I don’t want my local facilities to be in the hands of my homophobic neighbours. I don’t WANT to have to rely on the whims of my local community if I am in need of help. I don’t trust them. And I don’t think I’m the only marginalised person who fears relying on the whims of their neighbourhood.

As I’ve said before when talking about a jury of my peers – I don’t want it. My peers are prejudiced, ignorant, self-absorbed, self-centred, small minded, incompetent and generally horrible people. And the same can be said about the local community. I hear people talking about the close knit communities of the past and I shudder. The very idea horrifies me. Close knit communities, neighbourhood busybodies and the local gossip circles are some of the biggest enforcers of conformity there has ever been. Anyone who is different from the mainstream is not going to come out ahead when the “local community” gains power.

As for charities – I have seen few organisations more bigoted, more prejudiced and generally more inefficient and awful to work for than charities and I’ve suffered under more than a few – and that goes trebly in all cases when the charity is religious in nature. I work for and have worked for many charities – mainly GBLT charities. And every single time we have made an alliance or common ground with a straight charity we have been shafted. They’ve taken our money, our time, our effort and then told us to go screw ourselves. We create and work on homeless shelters for all – but then there are no facilities or help of the gay homeless. We work on domestic violence shelters and networks – then find only lesbians and bisexual women are welcome – and them grudgingly. And when it comes to religious charities, words cannot express how vile it has been. I do not want local facilities and organisations run by organisations that despises my very existence AND are fighting for legal opt outs to the laws that stop them treating me like shit.

Which brings me to thirdly. Why are local communities, charities and businesses supposed to be any more competent or accountable than government? Why are people working part time, in their spare time or through hiring a private management company (oooh would that be privatisation?) supposed to be ANY more competent, cost efficient or capable than people actually employed by the state to do these things?

I don’t buy the idea of state incompetence – not that they’re not incompetent – but that they’re somehow more incompetent than Fred Blogs down the road. He’s incompetent as well. Why do we think he is magically going to spawn abilities? He hasn’t mastered how to lock his garage yet.

And lastly – who is going to do this. I think [personal profile] jslayeruk covered it well here but to reiterate

Who is going to volunteer, reach into their own pockets, take the power back, attend the meetings, do the organising, have the oversight etc?

Who is going to be able to? Who will have the time, the money, the energy?

It won’t be the poor people. It won’t be the marginalised people. It won’t be those who are most dependent on local services and facilities. It won’t be those who need help the most.

It will be those who have the time for a project, who have the free time, who have the spare cash to spend and push it the way they want.

This is not a scheme that’s going to benefit Jane Blogs off the council estate or Fred Jones, working double shifts to try and keep ahead of his debts. They don’t have the time, they don’t have the money, they have so many other things in their life to deal with that they can’t spare a fraction more for this. This is going to benefit Marjorie Pompous-Snobbington. Again, classic Tory policy.

This whole thing stinks like a hot mess – a classic Tory hot mess at that. The usual victims will suffer – the poor, the minorities, the marginalised – and the rich and the prosperous will reap the rewards.