Whatever Happened to the Big Society?

Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May hold a photo call to show that they are "on the warpath" and "getting tough" with illegal immigrants/failed asylum seekers.* 

But whatever happened to The Big Society? Well the body set up to promote it  - The Big Society Network is to be wound down and is under investigation over "government funding misuse"

Private Eye reported that its accounts show that 90% its income came from the government and that at its launch in 2010 Downing Street David Cameron declared that it would be "an organisation that brings all the elements of the Big Society together."

It had been given "£2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants" but its projects had come "nowhere near delivering on their promised objectives" and senior civil servants had been over ruled and their doubts ignored over some of the grants.

One project Your Square Mile was given £830 million from the Big Lottery Fund not long after the 2010 launch despite the fact they had judged the application to be "high risk". Apparently they predicted that a million local groups would sign up to the scheme but by February 2012 only 64 had.

Martyn Rose, the Chairman of the Big Society Network, donated £54,000 to the Tories 2010 election campaign and is being investigated along with two other directors over payments from the charity “for consultancy services” and trustee Giles Gibbons is a "former business partner of Steve Hilton".

You really could not make it up.

You might think that this would be end of The Big Society but there is another element of it still going strong and one that might well cause far more lasting damage and it is Mr Michael Gove the Gnome's free school/academy policy. The Gnome might well have moved on to a new job that is more suited to the "skill set" of a journalist but his "reforms" have not. Hopefully the supposed "Trojan Horse" plot will mean that more oversight will be brought into both academies and free schools but the greatest achievement of The Big Society might well be to help to produce more divided, mistrustful and prejudiced society.

In the Guardian Dave Hill has been following the development over the free school proposed in Hammersmith and Fulham called the Fulham School for Boys "a comprehensive boys' school with strong Christian values" with a prospective Headmaster who says boys "need and what they respond to is firm discipline".

The plans approved by "Our Dave" the PM's favourite council would have involved forcing a current and successful local authority primary to close. The backers of scheme are not shy to promote the fact they have high profile Tory backing and some have connections to local Tory councillors and so it all does come across as rather similar to the Big Society Network set up.

The scheme did have a major set back recently when the Tories were given a big shock by managing to lose control of Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the new Labour administration saved the threatened primary school. However Mayor "Jolly Good Fun" Boris Johnson himself stepped in to save the day and the Fulham Boys school will open this September with 100 boys at a temporary site. So it remains to be seen how much tax from "hard working people" will be spent on this scheme.

The increasingly bonkers but brilliant Newsnight have also recently reported on a report by the British Humanist Society about Steiner free schools. Here is the Newsnight report:

Later on in the program Robert Peston hosted a discussion with a chap from the Humanist society and a rather scary parent from Steiner school who's sense of superiority simply oozed from out of her. When asked if she had paid fees she replied "Yes we had to pay" in a way that implied it was some kind of injustice that she had to pay in order to give her child what she regarded as a special and superior education. It does generally come across that the free school policy is really a ruse to allow certain parents to do this at the expense of "hard working families".

The British Humanist Society report on Steiner Schools can be found linked to at the end of this report on their recent victory over the Government with the Information Tribunal regarding the disclosure of reports on Steiner schools.

The concerns in the report focus on the private Steiner schools and there is no evidence of any of the race issues in any of the state funded Steiner academies but one of the three new free schools was an existing private school and more are in the pipeline. Again is this the sort of the thing that the tax of "hard working families" should be contributing to? 

As with the news report above the bit the really stands out is the section on race: "the parents persuaded the teachers to have a racism awareness day, but at that, ‘a few teachers filled in every ethnicity on the form as they said they had been through all races: the teachers were white so obviously saw themselves as being at the pinnacle."

As previously mentioned - you really could not make it up. 

All in all The Big Society has not only shown itself to be morally misguided but also exposed a great deal of incompetence and lack of judgement amongst its disciples.

* Quoted from the Metro free newspaper but it did not appear on their Wordpress blog so here is a screen grab from the digital edition.


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