Leading questions: If ‘Total Place’, ‘Big Society’ and local leadership are the answers: What’s the question?
On 19 July 2010, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, explained his concept of ‘Big Society’. The idea calls for a dramatic redistribution of power. It is a move towards change from the current way of top-down governing. This Big Society is about a huge culture change, where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace, don’t always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face, but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.
The Big Society is not a novel idea but just one response to the prevailing crisis in the public services triggered by the credit crunch of 2008–2009. There are many examples in the past where decentralization and local leadership has attempted to turn the local government around and failed. This article examines the proposed ideas of ‘Total Place’, ‘Big Society’ and local leadership to provide public services in an age of austerity, and considers if a power shift is the solution, what the questions that need to be asked are.