Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Should it be “big society” or “big government” that ensures emergency services in major incidents ?

air ambulance 07

Can the Big Society run the Air Ambulance service ? Or will a ride in a volunteer's van be nearly as good ?

Last week the inquest for the victims of the 7/7 London bombings completed its deliberations and published its report.

Nine recommendations were made – the final one of which concerned the air ambulance service which was so vital on the day of the attacks. The coroner called for a review of the level of cover the London Air Ambulance is able to provide and its funding.  She went on to note the reliance of the service on volunteers    (source Guardian : July 7 inquest: coroner’s recommendations )

“I am concerned that London, a major global capital, host to the Olympics in 2012 and a prime terrorist target, should find itself dependent upon corporate funding and charitable donations, and upon professional volunteers giving up their limited free time in order to provide life-saving emergency medical care. It is equally concerning that the capability to provide such care is limited.”

It’s difficult to disagree with the implications of that observation – and I feel sure that the London authorities and the national Government, will ensure that the recommendation is addressed.

The reason I point this out though is because it offers in very stark terms, the problems with David Cameron’sBig Society” idea.

I’m certainly not being facetious when I say that I feel that it’s very laudable that Mr Cameron should seek to promote community empowerment, and the notion of people working together – freely and voluntarily – to promote the common good of their local neighbourhoods. Volunteers are a powerful force, and the act of volunteering is one which can provide enormous benefit for the individual as well.

What I disagree with is the underlying Conservative philosophy that the big society is needed because big Government is not. The notion that Government is not and should not be involved in the minutiae of daily life, because our society should be big enough and strong enough to let people run their own communities and lives.

It sounds very noble – in fact it sounds almost socialist – but be under no illusions – what it really means is starving essential services like the London Air Ambulance of public money, and public accountability – and leaving them to the vagaries of charitable donations, and voluntary help.

I feel that the terrible events of 7/7/2005 tell us so many things.

One of them is that some services are so important that they can not be left to chance – they require a Government that is strong enough and big enough to ensure that they are provided effectively.

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May 10, 2011 - Posted by | news, politics | , , , , , , ,

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