Having said that, the notion of the "Big Society" seems to have gone away somewhat. I guess localism is a rare example of an ideology totally shared by both parties in the Coalition, whereas "Big Society" is ...er...a little more whimsical and abstruse in nature. [Is it true that on Newsnight some months ago, one of the interviewees, when asked what Big Society is, replied "Is it obesity?". Oh I do hope it is true; it is priceless, if so.]
Big Society was also a casualty of the cuts in the earlier part of this year. It was a complete gift for those grandstanders against government cutbacks in the wake of the Budget (for example, the likes of Suzie Leather "on behalf of" the voluntary sector, Cllr Joe Anderson of Liverpool City Council, Merseyside television producer Phil Redmond, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless of the Community Service Volunteers, not forgetting most of the opposition front bench). These folk quickly got the shtick of "Big Society is merely a smoke screen for cuts" down to a fine art. This was a most unholy alliance and they all missed the point (some of them on purpose). It was a shame. The cuts should have been decisively de-coupled from Big Society. I guess there are only so many hours in the day.
Well....whatever...the prime minister seems to have abandoned his policy for the time being and that may be very sensible, nay downright expedient. Perhaps UKR could urge him to re-launch it after the next election with a back story of some small, understandable and believable vignettes. Our focus should be on understanding and promoting practical experience, and UKR could supply some of this. Sifting through the 20+ year UKR archive for examples of where it has already been achieved, we can find numerous small-scale examples of community-led regeneration projects, working in partnership with the private sector; fine-grain interventions that have made a major and real difference to peoples' lives. We could aggregate this evidence.
On a larger and more radical scale, going forward, in the housing arena, Mr Cameron should take heart from the fact that, across the UK, there are already more than 600 housing co-ops and mutual housing associations. These are merely the beginning; there could be many more to come: the Coalition is going to deploy Section 34A of the Housing Act and as a result at least a dozen tenant groups in England and Wales, representing perhaps 7,000 households, are already poised to take ownership of their estates. And Grant Shapps's "Community Right to Build" policy waits in the wings for communities to further develop their localities. This is why I think Mr Jenkins is wrong about localism.
As UKR Projects shows the way, there has to be a stronger focus on private, not state, action and private, not public, investment. It can be done - if you understand what you are doing. It is not about funding, and being supplicant, it is explicitly NOT about asking permission. It is about the judicial harnessing of community empowerment and assets, within the framework of the law.