An interesting side light on the whole "Big Society" agenda comes from Surrey, where campaigners allege that Surrey volunteer run libraries will not achieve any financial savings. This may very well be true. In fact, I suspect that a lot of such library schemes may soak up more resources than a conventional service.
The reasons are:
(a) Volunteers are not free. They have to be trained and managed, which in itself may require skills that a conventional library service may not have.
(b) Local authorities are likelty to have a number of infrastrucutre costs around building maintenance, integration with the current Council services and so on that are very difficult to get out of.
(c) Each volunteer group is likely to lobby for resources for its own part of the organisation, distorting the distribution of resources.
Why therefore have so many authorities gone down this route?
I think a number probably didn't realise the potential complications. Those that did, like Liverpool, drew back. Some Tory authroities may have been blinded by an ideology essentially based on the idea that public service have little value and require little ability to deliver. Others, I suspect, saw the Big Society as a way of cutting the budget and passing the blame to the volunteer groups. Whereas this may seem a clever wheeze, I wonder whether it will come back to bite them. They may find that they have just strtched the political pain over a longer period, and (if they have to add various subsidies to placate the lobbyists) they may even end up making deeper cuts to pay for the various "Big Society" schemes.