Rowan Williams blasts Big Society

  • @MattChorley

David Cameron's vision of a Big Society uses "aspirational waffle" to disguise deep cuts to the state, the Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed.

Rowan Williams says talk of the Big Society lacks detail and is viewed by many as an attempt to deflect attention from a shrinking state. The criticism comes in a passage published in The Observer from a forthcoming book, Faith in the Public Square. In it he says: "The Big Society, introduced in the run-up to the last election as a major political idea for the coming generation, has suffered from a lack of definition about the means by which such ideals can be realised.

"Big Society rhetoric is all too often heard by many therefore as aspirational waffle designed to conceal a deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities."

After several abortive relaunches, No 10 has barely mentioned the Big Society in recent months. The departure of its chief architect, policy guru Steve Hilton, for a California sabbatical, means a revival is even less likely.

The archbishop said ministers had failed to explain what the role of citizens should be. "And if the Big Society is anything better than a slogan, looking increasingly threadbare as we look at our society reeling under the impact of public spending cuts, then discussion on this subject has got to take on board some of those issues about what it is to be a citizen."