Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

UK Politics

Discounts for those who give their time to the Big Society project

People who give up time to help their communities will be given discounts on shopping, cheap swimming sessions and free theatre tickets as part of a major relaunch of the Big Society project.

After a barrage of negative publicity, ministers are focusing on tangible examples of ways to change the public view of the role of the state. In a scheme modelled on supermarket loyalty cards, volunteers will be able to redeem Big Society credits against a range of goods and services. More than £1.1m will be committed to schemes to encourage giving time and money to good causes and social-action projects.

This month a ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday revealed that only 30 per cent of people understood what the term "Big Society" actually meant, compared with 40 per cent in February.

David Cameron will use a speech in Milton Keynes tomorrow to dismiss reports he has gone cold on his vision after a year in No 10. Steve Hilton, the Downing Street head of strategy and Big Society guru, is determined that his brainchild will not be killed by the grind of life in Whitehall. Aides say the Prime Minister views the success of his idea as crucial to proving the coalition government is "not just about cuts".

The recession and anxiety about spending cuts has led to the amount of time and money given to charitable and social causes stagnating. Measures to restimulate the process will include £400,000 to develop schemes where volunteers will be offered a "thank you" for giving up their time.

The proposal is based on Spice in South Wales where businesses, community groups and council services are encouraged to offer discounts or spare capacity to encourage more volunteering. Last year, Spice helped 5,300 volunteers give 200,000 hours of their time.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, will release funding from government and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) for pilot schemes in three areas: King's Lynn & West Norfolk, Lewisham, and Wiltshire, with a further three planned. A website will be developed to make it easier for people to redeem their credits.

The government will also pledge £700,000 to bankroll a scheme to persuade the super rich to become philanthropists, with private banks encouraged to advise their clients on how to support charitable causes.

"When people give substantial sums, it is often important to them that they know their donation is making a difference," the Government White Paper published tomorrow will say.

The White Paper will also set out imaginative ways to encourage more donations to charities, including restaurants and shops rounding up customers' bills to the nearest pound to give the extra money to charity.