Category Archives: Big Society

Is the Archbishop right to speak up on political issues?

 The Archbishop of Canterbury has today spoken out against ‘The Big Society’ and criticised David Cameron on pushing through policies and committing the country to “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted”.  The Archbishop claims that the policies have been pushed through so speedily that the general public have not been able to fully understand, people are ‘baffled’ he says.

In particular, Rowan Williams speaks about ‘The Big Society’ as being ‘painfully stale’.  The Archbishop also launches a sustained attack on the government’s welfare reforms, complaining of a “quiet resurgence of the seductive language of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor.”

This political intervention from the Church of England has not been seen for some years and as such, has been with met with mixture of opinions.  ‘He should stick to running the church’ are just some of the comments seen and heard today.  I personally feel a mixture of feelings.  I do not agree with what the Archbishop has said, and  I think that David Cameron has reacted well by saying that he ‘welcomes the debate’.  I also think that everyone is entitled to an opinion, but arguably how can you criticise politicians who are elected to make decisions on such matters.  The coalition government gained 17 million votes.

All being said,  the comments generate debate and that must be a good thing for democracy.

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How to cut library spending without cutting libraries?

The video below is a clip of Tim Coates, the ex CEO of Waterstones. Being a councillor in a Borough where spending reductions need to be made, the video makes a very interesting watch.

Mr Coates spoke to an audience of residents and councillors on the Isle of Wight about how to cut library spending without cutting libraries.

Mr Coates successfully takes out 35% of the cost of running libraries by giving local libraries greater autonomy and taking out several layers of the management structure at the town hall and allowing the wholesaler to distribute the books to each library rather than the books having to go via the council, thereby increasing cost.  He presents, it would seem a much more simplified version of managing libraries and at a much greater level of value for money.  

Mr Coates presents a typical management structure where the chain starts with library staff flowing up nine layers until we eventually get to the councillor. He strips the layers of management down to just four, and rather the chain ends with individual library managers.  Mr Coates says:

‘Arrangements should be made with library suppliers so that each individual library orders and receives its own shelf ready supplies …Each library should be given access to several suppliers

With this new arrangement each library manager should be free to decide what to order, how to handle reservations and when to arrange transfers from other libraries.

Their budget will be allocated monthly and they will have the responsibility to their own local community for providing for and meeting their needs.

The library manager is also free to manage the staff budget and arrange opening hours to suit the local community, the use of volunteers and other outreach activities.’

These seem sensible ideas and is the sort of thinking which is needed up and down the country in these harsh economic times.  This successful individual proves that cuts can be made without affecting the provision of services.

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Big Hurdles for a Big Society

If the Big Society is going to be a success (and I am supportive of the Big Society) then we need to ensure that measures are taken to help people to volunteer.

I am currently trying to organise an event for local residents, however there are many regulations that are providing stumbling blocks for me.  The event I am looking to arrange is quite straightforward. 

So it needs to be said that if the Big Society is going to work then we are going to have to get rid of these petty regulations.

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