18th Oct, 2017

'Big Society' can't solve all inner-city issues, warns councillor

Coventry Editorial 13th Apr, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

‘COMMUNITY spirit’ cannot be expected to tackle problems throughout inner-cities under threat from ongoing austerity, a Coventry councillor warns.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle was speaking after a volunteer street clean-up operation he lead in Parkside, Coventry city centre, produced results.

He said the scheme could not easily be replicated in inner-city Hillfields, which also forms part of his St Michael’s ward.

Labour councillor O’Boyle warned David Cameron’s vision of the ‘Big Society’ – which has resurfaced in general election campaigning this year – cannot be expected to replace public services, and professional support for hard-hit areas.

Labour leaders at Coventry City Council have also mooted the idea of community groups and volunteers stepping in to run services such as libraries, under threat in a climate of unprecedented government cuts to councils.

Coun O’Boyle, a former council cabinet member, said in a recent council meeting there should be no need for cuts to libraries and children’s centres under a Labour government, although party leaders have issued no such assurances amid their deficit reduction plans.

Of the Parkside project, Coun O’Boyle said: “Pro-active councillor working with pro-active residents can make a difference to their area which they take great pride in.

“I take my hat off to both residents and students who have shown a real community spirit.

“Whilst this has worked well in Parkside, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Due to many reasons, this model doesn’t work everywhere.

Some more vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities such as Hillfields, need help and support from professionals to realise such goals.

“The government’s plans for further cuts will only make the gap between the ‘haves and have nots’ even wider and is something we should resist.

“My message to government is: don’t fracture and further damage our inner cities which are under tremendous pressure and austerity really bites.”

The Parkside clean-up operation saw volunteers take to the streets to clear up mess in streets with high rates of student housing.

The project saw Coun O’Boyle team up with the council, Coventry University, residents and other partners to tackle the “filth” and litter, which he said had caused “anger and misery” among residents.


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