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A new report from localism think tank the New Local Government Network (NLGN) will this week show which areas of the country are most ready to benefit and most at risk from the Government’s Big Society agenda.
The report will show that:
- There is no strong link between a community’s wealth and its ‘Big Society’ resources, with some deprived areas comparatively rich in community wealth. A poll of local authorities suggested that even in areas facing the steepest budget reductions, ingredients of the Big Society are often strong.
- In new heat maps illustrating Big Society resources, Barking & Dagenham and Harlow councils are least well placed to benefit from the Big Society, with the South West and North of England regions faring strongest.
- Communities faced with ‘double deprivation’ – those lacking both financial wealth and community resources such as volunteering – should be targeted for extra help to cope with the withdrawal of traditional state services
- In a boost to the Government’s agenda, new polling by Ipsos Mori shows that there is an untapped well of people willing to get more involved in community work through staffing libraries, sharing skills or mentoring children.
In advance of the launch, NLGN’s Director Simon Parker said:
“The big society agenda has lost its way, with many people seeing it as little more than a cover for cuts. But almost everyone can agree the UK would be a better place if we had stronger communities that could do more for themselves, especially at a time of severe cuts”
“Whilst there are areas at risk – those facing funding cuts and with little social wealth to plug the gap – our statistical analysis provides grounds for cautious optimism, suggesting that poor areas don’t necessarily have low social capital and that there might be untapped reserves of voluntary activism, especially among the baby boomer generation”
“But our research also suggests that alongside community activism, a big society needs an active local state. To create a big society, councils must learn to value social wealth – trust, engagement and belonging – just as much as more tangible financial assets.”
The report will recommend a much clearer role for local government in helping the Big Society grow from within localities. The authors also suggest that Whitehall should do more to understand the social complexities of communities and use that knowledge to better inform policy formation and resource allocation.
Below is NLGNs interactive map to illustrate a ‘Big Society score’ across England. (click and drag to move the map around, click the different layers to compare heatmap scores):