The Tories And Their Idea Of The ‘Big Society’ By Sarinder Joshua Duroch

The ‘Big Society’ speech was introduced in Liverpool in 2010 sadly, the outcome of the deception still echoes nationwide in 2017.

On the 19th July 2010, David Cameron made a speech in working class and historically socialist Liverpool outlining the benefits of the ‘Big Society’.

Many Liverpudlians can’t forget the devastation of the early eighties where the employment prospects and class divide under Thatcher elevated to heights never seen before. There were riots in Toxteth and the far right were running riot in the town with skinheads using violence as the main instrument of hate implementation.

The Police who were already carrying out the government’s desires by beating up strikers did nothing to create harmony between communities, there was little in the way of police community relations; let’s face it Thatcher wanted to punish northern communities for being pro unions, the police were always a sound resource to use to implement the agenda on the street.

That suited Thatcher very well indeed, she fooled everyone with the idea of buying their council homes and taking on mortgages, I am sure she spoke to herself in Downing Street in total joy by saying, ‘Oh well, once they have mortgages I will see how much they will strike then!’

The people of Liverpool must have really wondered what on Earth David Cameron was doing in their city, he wasn’t taking the biscuit; he was taking the packet on this occasion. Surely in Liverpool there was more chance of hell freezing over than the public applauding him and thanking him for his visit.  

David Cameron spoke about social action, public service reform and community empowerment. He encouraged people to come forward with ideas so that he could provide them with the tools to take their communities to the next step of ownership and ensure that the government wasn’t top down and allowed greater autonomy to the people.

It all sounded all so innovative on paper, but there were hidden agendas, he really wanted people to do all the work and at the same time looking to save money and not spending the government’s money.

He intended to finance all of this with dormant bank accounts and money that had been left by those who may have died or just totally forgotten about it.

Whatever it was, as long as it didn’t cost the Tories a penny.

This was clearly a political and financial move on the hand crafted Tory chessboard, the austerity and cuts to public services was always on the minds of the Tories and to mask the problem like the Venetian elite attending a high society ball all wearing masks to hide their antics.

He clearly wanted to evade the real problems and leave society to clean up the mess that was made in the eighties by Thatcher. We must accept that the horrendous tearing up of the social fabric by Thatcher and the Tories would take more than a generation or two to repair.

He spoke about voluntarism, philanthropy and social action; charming coming from a Tory in an economically hard hit socialist city such as Liverpool.

What has the legacy of the ‘Big Society left us with and what can the people of Liverpool take from this speech and the subsequent years of Tory rule?

Foodbanks have increased and so has homelessness, in the UK year on year homelessness has risen dramatically, in England 2010 there were 1768 people sleeping rough and by 2016 the figures reached 4134 (134%) increase. Westminster remains the local authority with the most homeless people at 260.

If we look at the impact of three northern cities one can see that over a six-year period homelessness grew rapidly in Manchester, in 2010 the city had 7 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 78. (1014%) increase. Liverpool, where David Cameron made his ‘Big Society’ speech had growing sleeping rough figures, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 21 (600%) increase. In Britain’s second city, Birmingham, in 2010 there were 9 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 55 (511%) increase.

The perceived affluent home counties haven’t come out of this appearing in good health. If we take the town of Gravesham and the city of Canterbury, both located in Kent we will see the contrast in the negative ascend of homeless figures.

In 2010 the borough of Gravesham had 1 person sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 12 people (1100%) increase. The city of Canterbury, a well-known town for tourists and academia, in 2010 there were 3 people sleeping rough and by the end of 2016 there were 50 (1567%) increase. In Croydon, south London, there has been a large increase in rough sleepers. In 2010 there were 4 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 68 (1600%) increase. Finally, in Brighton & Hove in 2010 there were 14 rough sleepers and in 2016 there were 144 (928%) increase.

One can only imagine in a negative sense what the socio-economic costs of danger to health this causes during the winter months. In 2005 the National Audit Office reached the conclusion that homelessness costs £1 billion, this covered the expense of paying for accommodation, providing grants and welfare administration.

The impact of the cost relating to mental health is also a major factor, each homeless person can cost £4298 for NHS services. Mental health costs £2099 per person, criminal justice can cost up to £11991; it’s evident the socio-economic costs are immense. The costs of temporary accommodation in London during 2014/2015 reached £663 million.

What exactly did the then Prime Minister expect from the people of the nation, his conclusion to this failed exercise and idea was aired during a speech in 2017 at the launch of the Fore Trust where he admitted that legitimate criticisms could be made of the ‘Big Society’ agenda.

Trussell Trust Foodbanks in England, providing help with emergency supplies of food for three days, has risen from 40,898 people in 2009/2010 receiving help to a staggering 1,182,954 in 2016/2017 (2792%) increase.

This is what the Tory ‘Big Society’ has achieved since that famous speech back in 2010. The North West has the highest number of people in receipt of help from Foodbanks, a total of 174,489 to April 2017; that figure will only increase. In London the figure is 111,101.  

This shows the scale of the problem in both the north and south of England. Scotland has provided over 145,000 food parcels in 2016/17.

We must admit that if not for the charitable nature of the British people, there would certainly be deaths relating to this crisis.

Again, it is obvious that the government are happy for the public to donate because they are saving money and then they have the countenance to congratulate the people of the nation for being so considerate. This must be met with a fulmination at the ballot box at the next election.

David Cameron has now left for a new post looking at promoting transport links to promote trade with China, the fund he oversees is worth £750 million. However, the UK and China initiative is worth over £1 billion.

There we have it, a nation that is left with a society where children are hungry and cannot afford breakfast.

Children and their parents don’t know where to turn during school holidays to get food, and we have the legacy of the Tory ‘Big Society’ in tatters.

500,000 children go to school hungry every morning and can’t concentrate on their studies or engage in physical activities at school.

We have bright and able children ready to perform for the economy when they are older, yet we are left with a part broken society because there is a disadvantaged population within our towns and cities that cannot function due to hunger.

We are meant to be the world’s sixth largest economy and we have 8 million people living in food poverty according to the UN and in addition we have 870,000 children going to bed hungry in this nation.

There is one thing for sure, people who are hungry know when they are being fed lies and false promises that is perceived to be filling nutrition to their hungry eyes. Once digested it has no impact, just like the false promises of the cohesive ‘Big Society,’ In George Orwell’s words, ‘In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.’ Has the revolution begun for a fairer society in the context of education, employment, health and reducing the massive gap between the increasing haves and have nots in our society?

Given the last general election results it looks as if it has and is gaining momentum in many parts of the UK. The public have seen the deceit and are telling the truth in a revolutionary manner; the votes for Labour at the last election is evidence of that.

Sarinder Joshua Duroch

Labour & Momentum member.