Local communities will find themselves at the heart of public projects under new plans to relinquish state control, prime minister David Cameron has said.
Cameron finally fleshed out his plans for a Big Society which he says will see local residents, voluntary groups, social enterprises and charities take control of public projects and even govern council spending.
However, his plans have drawn criticism from Labour and members of the public who believe the agenda is simply a smoke and mirrors act for disguising swingeing public spending cuts while giving local communities the illusion of greater state freedom.
Such scepticism has hardly been helped by communities secretary Eric Pickles, who said the Big Society agenda was “unashamedly about getting more for less”.
But Cameron has defended his plans, saying “people power” would enable local communities to have a direct influence on shaping their environment, with those in the first four regions confirmed under the Big Society plans set to reap the benefits ahead of the rest of the UK.
He revealed that Liverpool, Eden Valley, Cumbria, Windsor and Maidenhead, Berkshire, and the London Borough of Sutton would be the first areas to be involved in his Big Society, which could see locals rally to save a local pub or post office, staff museums or libraries and give them more power over council spending.
Critics have also been quick to expose holes in the funding arrangements for the plans, however, Mr Cameron said hundreds of millions of pounds would be channelled to local projects from dormant bank accounts to empower those involved.
Justifying his plans, Cameron said years of top-down government control had turned capable people into ‘passive recipients of state help’, lively communities into “dull soulless clones” and motivated public sector workers into ‘disillusioned weary puppets of government targets’.