February 7, 2011 / 9:52 AM / 8 years ago

Cuts destroying "Big Society" vision

LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” project is being undermined by massive council spending cuts that are “destroying volunteering”, the outgoing head of a training charity said on Monday.

Elisabeth Hoodless, who is retiring as executive director of Community Service Volunteers, said cuts in local authority funding were removing opportunities for people to help deliver public services.

Cameron’s “Big Society” initiative has been one of the overarching themes of the coalition government as it seeks to reduce the role of the state in society and cut costs.

Hoodless said she had been “very excited” by the idea when it was announced last year.

But the former head of Britain’s largest volunteering charity said the vision lacked a “strategic plan”. In an interview with the Times newspaper, she said the “massive cuts” imposed on local councils were undermining the project.

“Does one hand know what the other hand is doing? We know we need to save money, but there are other ways of saving money without destroying the volunteer army,” said Hoodless, who has running her charity for 36 years.

Her comments come as ministers try to fend off growing criticism of Cameron’s signature initiative amid fears it will fail to take root as the cuts bite.

Last week Labour-run Liverpool city council said it was abandoning a “Big Society” pilot project because the cuts had removed funding for community groups to be able to run public services such as libraries and post offices.

There were a number of protests on Saturday around the country over plans to close local libraries.

Announcing the “Big Society” concept last year Cameron trumpeted the ideology as a “big advance for people power.”

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; editing by Keith Weir

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