Big Society Suffolk is the label I have given to what Suffolk County Council calls the New Strategic Direction – therefore often refered to as the NSD. Very simply, this involves outsourcing everything the Council does, such as libraries, social services or building control, to outside suppliers. In total there are 113 services identified as example local government services which could be outsourced (or divested as the Council prefers to call this).
If implemented as planned, by mid 2012 there will not really be a Council anymore, just a handful of officials who manage a series of contracts. Once these contracts are drawn up, they will be difficult to change. Thus, if you as a Suffolk resident, experience a problem or difficulty with the service you are receiving, your ability to get the Council to respond will be negligible or non-existent. You will not be able to vote for who provides the services, nor will you be able to change the provider or have any influence over what they do.
This was an idea first put forward in September 2009 and which is due to be finally approved at a meeting of the Council in December of this year. Given that there is a huge Conservative majority on the Council final approval is almost guaranteed.
No attempt has been made to explain the New Strategic Direction to the people of Suffolk. The only document which exists in the public sphere was published in September 2010 (i.e. only 3 months before the vote in Council to implement the plan). This document can only be found by examining the list of papers presented to the Council at its meeting of 23 September 2010 (follow this link http://apps2.suffolk.gov.uk/cgi-bin/committee_xml.cgi?p=detail&id=1_14720 and download “Agenda item no 7 – implementing the New Strategic Direction Main Report). It is not an easy document to read or understand (let alone find) and part of the role of this blog is to examine this document, and any others that become available, and interpret what they actually mean.
Update: The Council has now created a dedicated page on its website and also launched an on-line survey – designed to engage (not consult) with people. See http://www.suffolk.gov.uk/newstrategicdirection