CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

As more and more members join this association it is clear there's a willingness to get involved with community activities. Makes me wonder if everyone is getting involved with this government initiative?

As a community radio station we are keen. It seems like a good idea. How do we join in? The Big Society web site, http://thebigsociety.co.uk/ seems to be making progress, and if you live in Windsor & Maidenhead (strange choice) you will spearhead the campaign. Looking forward to that. We'll all be allowed to send our children to Eton, and the Queen will hold open house with tea and cakes every Thursday.

In quiet ole Suffolk it's a bit different. As a community radio station (did I already say that?) we went to the council to ask about their plans for the libraries. Rumours, just so many rumours. The CEO of Suffolk CC had said that Costa Coffee may be interested; a property developer was heard muttering that libraries (we have 44) were always in good locations, but book readers didn't really need a building.

So we asked the Head of Libraries, and his Boss, and took our three county councillors to the meeting.

The result? Don't know what they plan, they will not tell. The Boss says we must ask the councillors, she doesn't want to talk to us, and the councillor that had a regular chat session on our community radio station (sorry, I said that again) was told he was no longer allowed to attend because we had expressed an interest in taking over the libraries!

I could go on. This is the county that says it wants to work from a broom cupboard because it is divesting itself of all responsibility.

Trouble is the community will not be told what's happening until it is announced that the contracts have been awarded.

That's democracy in Suffolkl. What's happening elsewhere?

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Comment by Trevor Lockwood on November 8, 2010 at 21:55
John

I'm supposedly qualified to talk about voluntary and community organisations but I remain baffled - or should I say 'suspicious'. We must be realistic. As a council executive earning a good salary: our CEO gets £218K pa plus expenses, you'd be foolish to be too keen to throw that away, and let amateurs run the show.

Central government has the mistaken idea that local councillors know what is going on - that's a rarity, especially with Cabinet-style decision making. Too many councillors are content to let officers make decisions.

One of our locals has been on the council for 38 years, and will be mayor for the fifth time next year. She's just been severely criticised by OfSted for her chairmanship of a failed school. Will anyone take any action to remove her? Don't rely on the electorate who all recognise her as she's always smiling from the pages of the local paper, and she's in the party that's held sway here for a long time.

You are probably right - large organisations will soon become the 'contractors of choice'. There will be no economies of scale, nor will we see the Big Society in action.

The average English person is really an indoctrinated slave. We work for foreign companies, who walk away with all our profit - and it is that profit that once made Britain great. We must generate wealth, and keep the profits here, in this country. To do otherwise makes us all wage slaves, and increases the economic separation.

I'm old enough to remain a voice in the wilderness - as my father used to say, "You mark my words."
Comment by John Mulkerrin on November 8, 2010 at 15:23
Its only anecdotal Trevor but it seems to me to be very similar elsewhere in the country. Part reluctance to fully open up, part still looking for the answers. Speaking to those who have experience in these processes, there is a fear that the consultation process will be an exercise only and the local authorities will end up contracting with large familiar organisations.

The other thing that has popped up a lot is the frustration that voluntary organisation funding seems to be an easily identified route to cutbacks, not all groups will be able to easily switch to revenue generating business plans and the natural concern is that vulnerable groups will lose out.

I'm not experienced enough to really speak with any authority on this, but I am trying to collate any info as it comes in.
Hope your well
John

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