THE Big Society is alive and well in Slaithwaite – and it’s a shining example to the rest of the country.
That was the view of top politician Baroness Sayeeda Warsi on her visit yesterday to two landmark businesses in the village.
The Cabinet member and co-chairman of the Conservative Party said she was “hugely impressed” with what she had seen.
“This is the Big Society in action, this is the vision,” she said.
The Dewsbury-born Minister without Portfolio was on a short tour of Slaithwaite with Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney. She met local business people, residents and councillors.
Baroness Warsi, a former Dewsbury College student and solicitor, dropped in at the Waves Daycare Centre on Canal Side before moving on to The Handmade Bakery next door where she bought two loaves of bread.
The purpose of the visit was to look at social enterprises in action and see first-hand how local businessmen and women, private finance, public money, volunteers and local residents are all working hand-in-hand for the benefit of the whole community.
Baroness Warsi, who spends most weekends at home in Yorkshire, said: “It is great to see the community pulling together in the way that it is in Slaithwaite to make viable businesses.
“They are not just about making money, they are creating employment for people and putting social capital back into the community. It results in wins all across the board.”
A keen volunteer herself, Baroness Warsi said that she was a passionate believer in the Big Society.
She added: “It is fascinating to see these two businesses bringing so much of the community together.
“This is the vision, setting up businesses for and with the community, volunteering, finance and local employment all coming together for the benefit of all.
“The Big Society is alive and well in the Colne Valley and long may it continue.”
Baroness Warsi added that when she was asked what she could bring to the Cabinet she had said “Yorkshire common sense”.
Speaking of her Slaithwaite visit, she added: “It reaffirms my faith and belief in the county and what we have to offer. It is something that people from other areas of the country can learn from.”
The Handmade Bakery is an extremely popular not-for-profit artisan bakery set up in 2009. The venture is financed by the issuing of “bread bonds,” a subscription system whereby people commit to buying bread for one to 12 months at a time.
In return, subscribers receive a discount that gets greater with the length of commitment.
The bakery has also generated extra business for the local pub as many subscribers collect their loaves from there twice a week. Local volunteers receive bread and skills training in exchange for their time.
Waves Daycare Centre won the Examiner Community Project of the Year Award 2011. The centre works with people with learning disabilities.
Everyone is encouraged to take ownership of the day-to-day running of the centre, including interviewing new staff and organising fundraising events and entertainment.
Waves teaches vital life skills and almost all the people who attend now work for a few hours a week in Colne Valley businesses.