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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Flogging the Big Society

It is an old adage, that conmen first convince themselves of the value of their propositions. This appears to be true of the British Prime Minister, who seems to be persisting in pushing the 'Big Society' concept that has caused yawns all over the country. The latest manifestation of his apparent persistence in a delusion is the launch today of the Big Society finance initiative. £400million have been filched from 'dormant' bank accounts  to which the banks have added £200million as part of the Merlin deal by which the banks were allowed to carry on pretty well as they had become accustomed to do.

The £600million will be made available to established social enterprises that can show an income stream and offer some evidence of continuing ability to service any loan they are given. Such enterprises have taken over local swimming pools and bus services [among other activities] that would otherwise have been closed down when state funding was removed or radically reduced under government 'cuts'. Such enterprises have to keep the statutory requirements relating to heath and safety, which often require them to make 'investments' that cannot be funded from their income streams. By lending them the money, in a small number of selected cases, the new fund can enable enterprises to continue in being and [with luck] be able to increase their turnover [and thus their ability to repay]. Supposedly hard-headed business people will assess applications, and I predict now that cronies of those assessors will appear as Directors or Trustees of the enterprises in a special position on the board to censure any action that could weaken their ability to repay.

Some good causes will be helped by this initiative, but it will come at a high price in dynamism and with serious diminution of the scope of enthusiastic volunteers to innovate.

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