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Far too much debate around local government and big society has focussed on crude caricatures. It’s time to create new outcome focussed relationships and the social sector and local government have to be friends in this endeavour - not foes.
Local government does a special place stewardship job. We risk losing this if the vast majority of services are outsourced. We need to have a greater debate on the risks.
Local government is rethinking its community cohesion policy. New research indicates that local and central government must maintain investment or jeopardise the big society project and local economic success.
We need to transform our public services. To achieve this we will need innovative partnerships, joining up the public, commercial and social sectors. Perhaps we need to reinvent Local Strategic Partnerships as public innovation partnerships - locally owned think tanks for public service innovation and reform.
Innovation and new ways of delivering public services are essential. However, we must not unleash an abuse of cooperative traditions, which fragment and denude the standards of public service delivery. We cannot create a hollowed out local government who can no longer effectively steward the destiny of local places.
For all the talk about big society, small state we need a big awareness about what we could be losing. Many of things we cherish about our community life in Britain is not unbreakabe. It needs to be shielded, grown and nurtured.
The big society could be a bold and brave idea. However, cuts may jeopardise this project before it even gets going. The cuts are heralding a shrinking state and a growth in commercial delivery of state services. Government needs to ensure big business does not crowd out the civil society.