Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 14:37 UK

Cameron and Clegg set out 'big society' policy ideas

"If you want people to play a bigger part in society you have to give them power"

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have given details of how the Conservatives' flagship idea of a "big society" will shape the coalition's policies.

The prime minister and his Lib Dem deputy said people should have more say over planning decisions and voluntary groups be able to run public services.

Mr Cameron said the state was "often too inhuman and clumsy" to tackle the country's social problems.

Labour have warned that the idea could result in "do-it-yourself" services.

'Big idea'

During the election Mr Cameron described the "big society" - based around encouraging greater personal and family responsibility and community activism - as the "only big idea" on offer.

Policies put forward by the Conservatives included a National Citizenship Service for 16-year olds, giving people the right to veto council tax rises and for new providers to be able to set up so-called "free schools" in the state sector.

The "big society" was not mentioned in the two parties' initial coalition agreement, which focused largely on measures to tackle the deficit crisis and reform the political system.

We know that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down
Prime Minister David Cameron

But at a meeting with representatives of voluntary and charitable organisations in Downing Street, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg fleshed out their ideas for putting "people power at the heart of government".

These include giving communities power to stop post office or pub closures, training community organisers, encouraging volunteering, creating a Big Society Bank to fund social enterprises, giving people greater access to government data and reviewing of local government finance.

Mr Cameron said the government was committed to giving people more control over their lives.

"We know instinctively that the state is often too inhuman, monolithic and clumsy to tackle our deepest social problems," he said.

"We know that the best ideas come from the ground up, not the top down."

Mr Clegg said building a fairer Britain required "radical change" and "bringing down vested interests".

'On the cheap'

But Labour's Chris Bryant, a former minister, said: "This is drivel... I think this is an attempt to get government on the cheap."

Although broadly in agreement that there should be more alternatives to state providers in many areas, there are several sticking points between the coalition partners.

On schools, both parties agree new providers should be able to enter the state school system in response to parental demand but they differ on who these schools should be accountable to.

The Conservatives want new schools to be answerable directly to ministers whereas the Liberal Democrats want local authorities to retain control over the schools in their area.

On local government finance, the Liberal Democrats proposed piloting a local income tax while the Conservatives suggested freezing council tax in partnership with councils. The parties have agreed to a review on how to proceed.

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