John Harris

Journalist & Author

Save the library, lose the pool: Newcastle finds self-help has its limits as cuts bite

Community groups are trying to fill the gaps but the hacking back of council services has just begun, John Harris finds

On a weekday morning in Blakelaw, two miles from the heart of Newcastle, the scene inside a community centre suggests a perfect example of what David Cameron used to call the “big society”.

Local women have gathered for a “coffee and conversation” session, while people nearby are cutting flyers for a residents’ association’s Christmas fair. Meanwhile, an effervescent 36-year-old councillor called David Stockdale is discussing plans to bring a key amenity into community ownership. The prime minister would presumably balk at his terminology: Stockdale proudly talks about a “socialist post office”.

Related: Is saving Newcastle a mission impossible? | John Harris

We are entering the realm of not just the politically impossible, but the legally impossible

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