Seize the opportunity to take control

EARLIER this week, David Cameron set out our plans to create a Big Society, something that as Minister for the Cabinet Office, I’ve been very involved with.

A great deal has been said about the Big Society – by its supporters and by sceptics - so I thought it might be useful if I explained more about the idea and what it means for communities in and around Horsham and throughout Britain.

It goes without saying that tackling our country’s deficit is our number one priority but even when in Opposition, and knowing what a huge task we’d have on our hands, we knew we’d strive for much more.

We believed that if we formed a government, our role would be much, much wider and that we’d also focus on building a bigger,

stronger society.

People from all political parties – and none – recognise that in many ways, we have a broken society, with many communities suffering the effects of family breakdown, debt, crime, worklessness and addiction.

Our response is to encourage people to take more responsibility, not less. This requires us, as a government, to enable people to seize the opportunity to take greater control over their lives and their communities.

It’s here that the Big Society comes into its own. It’s all about freeing people, professionals and whole communities from state control and giving them the freedom to improve their situation. There are three strands to this:

l We’re decentralising power from central government to communities – enabling people, for example, to run their local parks, post offices, pubs and even take control of planning.

l We’re reforming public services – increasing choice for people who use public services and restoring professional discretion to those who deliver them.

l We’re facilitating the development of a new culture of voluntarism and philanthropy by, for example, getting rid of ridiculous health and safety rules and over–the-top CRB checks.

I’ve been leading on the creation of the Big Society Bank which will provide working capital for those who want to run public services. There will also be money available for a Transition Fund which will help charities and social enterprises adapt and prepare for bidding for government contracts.

This is something that I’d be very happy to discuss with local organisations who feel they may have a part to play. If that’s the case for you, please don’t hesitate to contact my House of Commons office so that my team can make the necessary arrangements.

In short, I passionately believe that the Big Society has the power to really change our country – for the better. We’re getting rid of top-down, bureaucratic, centralised government and restoring personal and social responsibility.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham