BIG SOCIETY A BIG CON – says Unison

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PRIME Minister Cameron explained to an audience of ‘social entrepreneurs’ in London yesterday that the ‘Big Society’ means ‘opening up’ public services to being taken over by charities.

Cameron said he wanted to make it easier for people to ‘volunteer’.

He said: ‘I hope that local authorities will be able to work with charities that they fund and work out how best they can handle them.’

This will create ‘a massive opportunity for the charitable sector to access all of that money,’ he said.

‘The big picture is that those charities actually have a lot of other things they can do and get funded for, under our plans for building a Big Society.’

He announced details of a Big Society bank, which will use £100 million in its first year from dormant bank accounts and £200 million from the ‘Project Merlin’ deal with banks, to lend, at commercial rates of interest, to projects approved by the government.

Flanked by supporters wearing yellow t-shirts advertising ‘The People’s Supermarket’, Cameron said: ‘This is my absolute passion.’

The training of 5,000 ‘community organisers’ is also to be announced this week.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber responded: ‘The most worrying thing about the Big Society is that the Prime Minister truly believes that policies of slash, burn and sack will make all our lives better, and not just for those for whom he is planning tax cuts.’

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: ‘Cameron’s attempt to relaunch his Big Society will not fool anyone.

‘The whole Big Con is nothing but a smokescreen for privatisation and for allowing public services to be taken over and run down.

‘The government is paying lip service to the role that charities can play, while starving them of the resources they need.

‘The reality is that the voluntary sector is struggling under the weight of public sector budget cuts, the withdrawal of grants and the increase in VAT.’

Unite national officer, Rachael Maskell, said: ‘David Cameron needs to explain that if £5 billion is being cut from the sector and only £400 million is being injected in the form of the ‘Big Society’ bank and the transition fund, what is happening to £4.6 billion funding gap facing charities?’