Britain’s new coalition government has announced plans to create a ‘Big Society Bank’ using funds from dormant bank accounts to help finance neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental groups. Building The Big Society – a new policy document released on Tuesday from the Conservative – Liberal Democrat government – sets out five key priorities for the new government: Give communities more power; encourage people to take an active role in their communities; transfer power from the central to the local government; support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises; and publish government data.
The previous Labour government followed an ambitious agenda over the past decade to support and strengthen the non-profit sector with a series of initiatives that included the creation of a high-level Office of the Third Sector, legislative and regulatory reform, social finance initiatives, a compact between government and the third sector and other significant and positive measures. The new coalition government is clearly attempting both to re-brand using the Conservative moniker of ‘Big Society’ and also to place some significant new initiatives on the table. The governmental Office of the Third Sector is widely expected to be re-named, and perhaps re-positioned, as the Conservative and LibDem coalition puts its political stamp on the UK government.
Among the new policy proposals:
- a new National Citizen Service to support 16-year-olds in public service initiatives;
- train a new generation of community organisers and support the creation of neighbourhood groups, especially in ‘most deprived’ areas.
- launch a national ‘Big Society Day’ to encourage volunteering and involvement in social action.
- ‘a range of measures’ to encourage charitable giving and philanthropy.
- support for the creation and expansion of mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises – and support for those groups to have a much greater involvement in the running of public services.
- public sector workers will get a new right to form employee-owned co-operatives that can bid to take over public services.
- create a new ‘right to public data’.
No specifics on any of these initiatives have yet been released.