(Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to transfer some powers from central government to local authorities and expand the voluntary sector in a flagship policy he calls the “Big Society.
Here are some facts about the idea:
* Officially launched in the northwest port city of Liverpool in July, the “Big Society” is one of the Conservative leader’s most high profile initiatives. He says it is ending the “top-down, top-heavy, controlling” state. Critics say it’s about cutting public spending at a time of slow growth and giant deficits.
* It covers a broad agenda of decentralising power, expanding the voluntary sector and encouraging people to take more responsibility for their lives and neighbourhood.
* The plans include giving people more of a say in how public money is spent locally and greater powers for voters in areas like transport and planning. Specific projects include plans for people to run their own pub if a big brewery wants to close it down, or volunteer to work in their local museum.
* Cameron plans to set up a Big Society Bank to help pay for some of the schemes. It will receive money from dormant bank accounts and private investors.
* The government is testing the policy in four areas: Cumbria, northern England; Liverpool, northwest England; Windsor, west of London; and Sutton in south London.
* Political rivals say the policy is a traditional right-wing small government agenda dressed up in voter-friendly rhetoric. Former Labour business secretary Peter Mandelson called it a “marketing device” which “under examination, is like sand disappearing through your fingertips.”