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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK
Poverty tops Tory policy targets
Conservative leader David Cameron
David Cameron says everybody can help to tackle social breakdown
The Conservatives will put the battle against poverty and deprivation at the heart of their campaign to win the next general election, the BBC has learned.

The party's policy review has concluded that repairing Britain's "broken society" will be the top priority.

This marks a change of emphasis from traditional Conservative issues such as tax and fighting crime.

Leader David Cameron said the "big idea" was to encourage "voluntary and community action".

BBC correspondent Mark Easton said the party had chosen unfamiliar territory on which to fight the next election

At the centre of what they call their "offer to the people" will be policies to turn breakdown Britain into breakthrough Britain, he added.

The document that will shape Tory policy, obtained by the BBC, paints a picture of Britain as a broken society riddled with debt and addiction, welfare dependency, family breakdown and educational failure.

The Conservatives say they want to put an end to the economic cost of the social malaise.

The document says the total cost to the taxpayer is 102bn and that there is opportunity for a considerable long-term saving and reduction in state expenditure.

It says that family breakdown costs 24bn a year, educational underachievement 18bn and crime 60bn.

'Big challenge'

Mr Cameron told the BBC that, to traditional Conservatives, "repairing broken Britain" was about reducing social cost while to traditional Labour supporters it was about increasing social justice.

In order to deal with social breakdown, everybody, and I mean everybody, has got their part to play
David Cameron

"This is the big challenge," he said.

"It's not economic breakdown - that was the problem of the 1970s - it's social breakdown and we've got to deal with this and I believe we can."

He added: "The big idea is not for more state cash but to encourage more voluntary and community action - the welfare society.

"In order to deal with social breakdown, everybody, and I mean everybody, has got their part to play."

Money would be invested in voluntary bodies and charities, Mr Cameron said.

"They've got the real expertise," he added.

"Government is often a bit of a clunking mechanism when it comes to healing a broken society."


SEE ALSO
Cameron reshuffles shadow team
03 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Tories 'will not change strategy'
01 Jul 07 |  UK Politics
Tory urges talks with extremists
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