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Cameron's society is a pretty Big ask.

Byline: Denis Kilcommons

THE BIG Society puzzled me when David Cameron announced it with a fanfare of trumpets. I looked on the internet and found one official source that said: "The Big Society is the Government's vision of a society where individuals and communities have more power and responsibility and use it to create better neighbourhoods and local services." Wow.

So what does that actually mean? Then I found another explanation that added: "The aim is to create a climate that empowers local people and communities building a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people."

Double wow. But I was still unsure about what it actually meant in practice once you had knocked away the flowery phrases, impressive concepts and soundbites.

Then I heard that Honley parish councillors Charles Greaves and Pete Searby had helped organise a meeting outside Honley Library on Saturday as a demonstration against the Kirklees proposals to run the library using only volunteers and began to get the idea.

Was this the Big Society? Save money by cancelling services and expect local people to keep them open for no pay "to create better neighbourhoods and local services"? More than half of all Britons do voluntary work already. A survey by insurance firm Zurich found that 59% of folk in Yorkshire and Humberside had been volunteers in the last year. Women and older people were the most prolific volunteer workers.

They had supported schools, helped at charity shops and in hospitals and raised funds for good causes.

And I don't suppose any of them had done so as a response to David Cameron''s clarion call. They had already been doing it. Have been doing it for years.

So now are we supposed to take up the slack caused by local and national government cuts? Will volunteers soon be climbing into burning buildings swinging an axe? No, not looters in a High Street rampage, but OAP firemen with time on their hands and lives to save.

"Get that hose closer, Bert." "I can't. Me zimmer frame is stuck in the debris."

Perhaps volunteer ladies will be diverted from the hospice shop to drive ambulances and coffee morning mums will have to organise rotas for looking after the kids so they can fit in a four hour shift on the bins.

Before volunteering is made compulsory I have already taken steps to provide myself with options for multi-tasking as the Big Society develops.

I have been ordained a Minister of the Universal Life Church and will be available for weddings, funerals, baptisms and bar mitzvahs. It only took a minute to fill in their form online and the only requirement was that I was over the age of 13.

They actually charge $6. 99 for a certificate so I shall save costs and make my own.

They say I can start my own church and absolve others of their sins.

Which is neat. I shall begin holding confessions in the garage. Just call me Reverend, buy me a pint and I could save your soul.

While I was at it, I signed up with an online university to become a doctor with an Accredited Life Experience Degree, although this will not be ratified for five days. Well, they have to be careful. I had thought of becoming a DIY GP in the front room with the curtains drawn - trust me, I'm a doctor - but I'm not sure the magistrates would understand. So I've decided to read a couple of books on psycho-babble and shout at people who enjoy public humiliation.

Who knows, I could be the next Jeremy Kyle and get my own TV show.

Everything is possible in the Big Society.

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* ANY VOLUNTEERS: David Cameron announces the Big Society
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 12, 2012
Words:630
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