Whatever happened to the Big Society? | OCCASIONAL PAPER

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Update and epilogue to the 2012 CPD report, Big Society and Australia

Whatever happened to the Big Society? | CPD OP25 | C Elliott | Feb 2013

CPD Researcher Cameron Elliot has produced a progress report on results from the Big Society policy framework developed by David Cameron’s conservative UK government, and which he claimed to have  ‘redefined the role of the state’.

Tony Abbott referenced Big Society principles in a ‘landmark’ speech last year, saying that ‘securing our future depends more on strong citizens than big government’. The strong possibility that the next Australian federal government may adopt a similar agenda to Big Society makes it important to consider the outcomes of the policies in the UK:

  • Contrary to Big Society’s stated intent, volunteerism has decreased
  • More than 60,000 public servants have lost their jobs 
  • Examples of substandard service delivery by outsourced providers continue to emerge
  • Financial status for households has worsened, while income inequality continues to grow

The International Monetary Fund recently admitted that austerity measures may themselves prolong recessions without producing the expected fiscal savings. The UK is currently feared to be experiencing a ‘triple-dip’ recession.

Whatever happened to the Big Society demonstrates conclusively that weakening the public sector does not automatically strengthen the community or corporate sectors. The new CPD paper argues for a flexible approach, which recognises the respective capabilities of governments versus private agencies, and considers the complex question of how to provide essential services using more than the one dimension – it is not only size of government that matters, but rather its capacity to serve and empower its citizens.

Download Whatever happened to the Big Society paper

Download Whatever happened to the Big Society media release