1. ITV Report

Archbishop attacks 'Big Society'

Dr Rowan Williams Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Archbishop of Canterbury has dismissed David Cameron's Big Society as a ploy to conceal a "deeply damaging withdrawal of the state from its responsibilities to the most vulnerable".

Dr Rowan Williams, who will stand down in December, denounces the concept as "aspirational waffle" in a new book being prepared ahead of his retirement. In further criticism of the Government, he suggests ministers have fuelled doubts over the Prime Minister's flagship policy by failing to clearly set out the role of British citizens within the Big Society.

In one passage, obtained by The Observer, he writes: "Introduced in the run up to the last election as a major political idea for the coming generation, (it) 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 to the most vulnerable."

Casting further doubt on David Cameron's vision, he adds: "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 and where it is that we most deeply and helpfully acquire the resources of civic identity and dignity."

It is not the first time the Archbishop has weighed in on the subject. Last year he condemned the policy as a "stale" slogan which, he said, was viewed with "widespread suspicion".

In his new book, Faith in the Public Square, Dr Williams also condemns military expenditure. The Archbishop, who has never been shy about expressing political opinions, writes: "The adventure in Iraq and its cost in any number of ways seems to beggar the imagination".

He caused controversy last June when he warned the Government was committing Britain to fundamental reforms in health and education "for which no one voted".

His comments, in an article for the left-wing New Statesman magazine, drew a furious response from Conservative MPs who described his attack as "ill-judged and unacceptable".