Press release

Government puts Big Society at heart of public sector reform

A new era of people power at the centre of the new government has been announced today by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

At a round table event in the Cabinet Room in Number 10, a group of civil society community activists and leaders met with the Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude and Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd to debate the government’s Big Society programme (PDF, 22KB).

A cross-government policy programme will create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a Big Society that would roll back big government, bureaucracy and Whitehall power.

The policies outlined today include:

  • giving communities a greater say over their local planning system and saving local services, such as post offices and pubs
  • creating a new generation of community organisers that will be trained to support the establishment of neighbourhood groups and introducing measures to encourage giving and philanthropy
  • encouraging volunteering and involvement in social action, including launching a national ‘Big Society Day’ and making regular community involvement a key element of key civil service staff appraisals
  • piloting a new National Citizen Service which aims to give 16-year-olds the chance to develop the skills needed to be active and responsible citizens, mix with people from different backgrounds, and start getting involved in their communities
  • supporting mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises and giving them greater involvement in the running of public services; funds from dormant bank accounts will be used to establish a Big Society Bank, which will provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies
  • increasing access to government-held data through a new ’right to data’ for citizens to ensure government data is published; the police will be obliged to publish monthly crime statistics
  • extending powers for local government by giving a general power of competence to local councils and conducting a comprehensive review of local government finance in order to help remove restrictions that limit the work of local councils

PM David Cameron said:

During the election campaign I extended an invitation to everyone in this country to join the government of Britain. I said that the idea of the Big Society would be marching through the corridors of power - and it’s happening right now. Today is the start of a deep and serious reform agenda to take power away from politicians and give it to people.

That’s because we know instinctively that the state is often too inhuman, monolithic and clumsy to tackle our deepest social problems. We know that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down. We know that when you give people and communities more power over their lives, more power to come together and work together to make life better - great things happen.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said:

We need radical change that puts power back in the hands of people. Only by bringing down vested interests and giving people real control over their lives will we build a Britain that is fair.

Mr Maude said:

Today heralds the end of Whitehall bureaucrats micro-managing public services - it’s not efficient and it doesn’t work. People know what is best for them and their community, and it is government’s job to make this happen as cost-effectively as possible.

Nat Wei, one of Teach First’s founding staff team, has been appointed advisor to the government on Big Society and will be made a member of the House of Lords. He will work alongside the new Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, to lead on the delivery of the programme. Teach First was founded in 2002 by Brett Wigdortz to recruit exceptional graduates into challenging schools.

Notes to editors

  1. Download the agreed policies for Building the Big Society (PDF, 22KB).
  2. For Cabinet Office press office contact details, visit the press office page.
Published 18 May 2010