Journal columnist David Taylor-Gooby believes North East social enterprises could become a model for the rest of the UK.
The writer and former North East Labour councillor has penned a new book detailing how, even though the term “Big Society” as used by the Tories has been discredited, the ideas beneath it could still succeed.
“Reclaiming The Big Society: How The Big Society Fits Into One Nation Politics” goes on sale next month following a launch in Westminster attended by MPs and others.
Mr Taylor-Gooby said: “Many of us on the left worry that, despite the obvious economic difficulties of many in our society, those in positions of economic power continue to act as if nothing has changed from the ‘glory days’ before the crash in 2008.
“Large bonuses and pay-offs are still the norm. Economic inequality is increasing, yet at the same time many of the very rich seem to contribute little to society.
“Despite the protestations of David Cameron at the last election about the Big Society that more services would be run by community groups and social enterprises, a report by the National Audit Office shows that last year £4bn was paid to four big outsourcing contractors, Serco, Capita, Atos and G4S, despite the fact that there have been some well-publicised failures by these companies.”
He blames Thatcherism and the push for privatisation for our problems. “This unfettered capitalism led to the crash of 2008, and may well do so again unless we think about a better way of running society,” he said.
“This book considers some successful social enterprises in the North East, and argues that it is a model which could be widely extended as part of Labour’s programme.
“Thus I am proposing an extension of the ‘social enterprise’ model to many more services currently run directly by local authorities, and to some such as care homes which are run by private contractors.
“I am also suggesting that the Government consolidates its position in the railway sector by running East Coast as a social enterprise and considers managing the West Coast Main Line in the same way.
“I also wish the Government to enter the energy sector, challenging the private companies to provide a fairer and more transparent pricing structure, and developing new frontiers in nuclear power, renewables and clean coal, not just going for the cheapest but, in the long run less sustainable, option.”
He added: “The term Big Society has been discredited, and we may worry that if we use it we will be laughed at. However, it is something which emphasises the fact that we really are ‘all in it together’, and that society is run for us, by us.
“People still use the term Big Society and would welcome an approach which actually wants to realise some of its ideals.”
Mr Taylor-Gooby launches the book at the start of December in London, and is also talking his ideas on December 6 at the Tyneside Fabians in Tynemouth’s Park Hotel. To attend, email Rita Stringfellow on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of Reclaiming the Big Society are available from the publisher Searching Finance fo £8.99 via www.searchingfinance.com