by Daphne Liddle

PRIME MINISTER David Cameron last Monday launched his “The Big Society”. He described it as his “great passion” and said it would lead to groups of citizens running post offices, libraries, transport services and housing projects.

Effectively he is trying to abolish the social wage. The real message is that local groups of people had better get together to run public services for free because he is about to sack most of the skilled professionals who are currently doing these jobs.

These local groups are not defined — they could be people who live in the same area, or people who share a religion or political viewpoint. There is no requirement for them to be in any way democratically accountable.

They will have to be people with some money, a lot of confidence in their own organisational abilities and a lot of spare time. In other words working class people will be excluded.

Wealthy members of various social, religious and ethnic groups are likely to jump at the chance of building their own segregated facilities for their own communities — leading to the development of deep social divisions and the creation of ghettos.

Soon these over-confident middle class people will find the work is very demanding and requiring real professional skills. They will soon be exhausted and sick of working long hours for no pay.

The services they provide will be of a do-it-yourself standard — botched and cobbled. They will get little thanks and many complaints.

They will soon be only too willing to either give up or hand the job over to private companies — who know the “Big Society” will bring them an absolute bonanza.

We will then have public services and facilities only for those who can pay. And the rest of us will have to make do with condescending and evangelising religious charities.

And this is the ultimate free-market capitalist dream. Cameron’s plans have little to do with dealing with the budget deficit — his cuts go way beyond what is necessary for that — and everything to do with Tory fundamentalist ideology that nothing should be done except for profit. It is greedy, gratuitously spiteful and cruel. It is a war on the working class.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison said: “Cameron’s ‘big society’ should be renamed the ‘big cop out.’

“Make no mistake this plan is all about saving money. And it will cost even more jobs and lead to more service cuts.

“The Government is simply washing its hands of providing decent public services and using volunteers as a cut-price alternative. We don’t want jumble sales to provide incubators for babies, we shouldn’t have volunteers taking over our libraries or museums and where are all these people with time on their hands, going to come from? Are we going to pay an army of newly unemployed to help run services?

The giant union Unite, said that the Prime Minister’s “big society” pipedream failed to answer two vital questions:

Who is going to do all the volunteering when men and women now both have to work to pay the household bills and the increased taxes that the coalition Government is imposing?

Where is the cash coming from when the contracts that charities bid for and third sector money are being slashed, such as the case of the leading legal agency for asylum seekers — Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) — which collapsed last month due to cash flow problems?

Unite national officer Rachael Maskell said: “David Cameron’s ‘big society’ is an intellectually flawed creed that harks back to a vision of 1950s Britain that never existed. We have been down this road before when John Major had a similar pipe dream of an idyllic Britain of 60 years ago.

“There is hypocrisy here. The voluntary sector is being hit by massive cuts to its funding — for example, Croydon council has slashed 70 per cent of its voluntary sector budget.

“And the coalition’s rampant drive for greater competition — heralded by the NHS White Paper last week — will drive down costs even more, especially as the ‘big society’ welcomes private sector interventions. This will mean that quality is compromised for cheapness.”