On Friday 5th November, Voluntary Action Stratford on Avon (VASA) hosted an event at the Shakespeare Hotel attended by well over a hundred people and at which various speakers gave their reaction to, and assessment of, David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Of particular note were inspiring talks by Chris Grimes on the setting up of the community run Blockley Village Shop and by Priscilla Groenveld on The Parenting Project that provides an all encompassing, largely voluntary, service for parents and children.
The guest speaker was Nadhim Zahawi MP who expounded on the Government’s ambitions and plans to bring about a fundamental shift from control by Whitehall at every level in order to create more vibrant and sustainable communities. The key was to be local action and accountability – giving people more control over their lives.
It is now very apparent that society’s ills cannot be cured by the application of yet more public money through the State; neither should people be treated by big business as economic assets in a game of seeking profit and avoiding loss. Britain was once known for the vibrancy of its charitable institutions which gave us the highest standard of living in the world, the highest levels of literacy in the world and the lowest levels of poverty. What charities can do to support and mobilise people is at the heart of the Prime Minister’s vision. It is likely in future that very local institutions, many of them run by volunteers, will be at the centre of our lives and have the potential to make a real difference in every community. The challenge today is to help them flourish and succeed. Could Transition Towns with their green credentials and ethos of caring and sharing and local resilience be a foundation upon which to build the Big Society?