Conservatives offer next chapter for Big Society

Following the release of the Labour Party manifesto, the Conservative Party have let voters know their intentions for social ventures ahead of the 7th May election.

Despite criticism of the term 'Big Society' as being a smokescreen for a smaller state at the expense of the needy, Cameron is sticking with it.

Under a chapter in the manifesto entitled ‘Helping You Build the Big Society’ there was veiled criticism of state departments and much crowing about the achievements to date in the social sector. The Tories want to see “communities working together, not depending on remote and impersonal bureaucracies”.

In addition, “social enterprises helping people into jobs through the Work Programme" are singled out. The manifesto goes on to list some landmarks under the coalition.

"We have launched the world’s first social investment bank, introduced more social impact bonds than the rest of the world combined and highlighted the great work done in communities with the Big Society Awards," it reads.

All good stuff. But Pioneers Post and it’s readers will be well aware of all this already – where were the pledges for further support of the sector should the Conservatives be in government for the next term? Where were the new ideas that would build on the good work done to date? Hiints of further developments that stopped short of anything concrete. The manifesto promises to give people "the power to start their own social enterprise" without revealing how. 

Cliff Prior, CEO of UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, described the proposals as disappointing.

"Given that David Cameron recently described the social economy as a UK success story, and this government has put a lot of work into supporting social enterprises to grow and scale, it is a little disappointing that the Conservatives aren’t proposing more radical, ambitious ideas," he said.

Those looking for investment may have better news if you think social impact bonds (SIBs) are a good idea; the 80 page document also promised that the number of SIBs is set to increase in the future.

There was also positive news for those working in the public sector who might wish to spin out, become more innovative with their programmes and free themselves from too much unnecessary bureaucracy.

Citing their support for public service mutuals – organisations that are owned by their staff and deliver public services – the Conservatives say that they "want more of them, so we will guarantee a ‘right to mutualise’ within the public sector. This will free up the entrepreneurial spirit of public servants and yield better value for money for taxpayers". 


Photo credit: Melissa Bunni Elian