UNITED KINGDOM: A quiet rebellion against the Big Society
16 February 2011
With his flagship policy, David Cameron wants to replace big government with local community initiatives, but he’s now seeing that when you cut state spending, you cut also at the roots of civil society.
In austerity Britain, a quiet rebellion is brewing. Not the violent street protests seen in Greece or the mass union demonstrations staged by the French, but something just as troubling for David Cameron. Nine months into his premiership, £81bn of cuts are starting to bite. The fierce fiscal experiment – a spending squeeze on a scale not seen in any other big economy – has been cheered on by hawks around the world, from the International Monetary Fund to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. But in The Bell, a pub in Mr Cameron’s backyard, genteel rage is bubbling. Its source? The threat to close the Charlbury public library, housed in a double-fronted property built from the yellow Cotswold stone typical of towns and villages in the prime minister’s Witney constituency. Rosalind Scott, 69, a bespectacled former social worker in a burgundy cardigan, is as potent an opponent of Mr Cameron’s austerity agenda as the students who last year wreaked havoc in central London in protest at cuts to university funding. “The library is essential to our community,” she says. “The problem with losing a library is that you lose a place where people meet each other.” Last Saturday Mrs Scott organised a protest attended by 200 people. Such events are being organised across the country as Mr Cameron pushes ahead with Plan A – he says there is no Plan B – to eliminate the underlying deficit of 4.8 per cent of national income within four years. Read full article in Financial Times (registered users) or in Presseurop's nine other languages...