A recent report showed genuine interest in Cameron’s ideal but ministers need to deliver on policy, says James Lowman

It's been another tough month for Cameron's Big Society. Since it sprang into the public consciousness during last year's election campaign, it has been viewed in turn as irrelevant, radical, cynical, revolutionary and nebulous.

Now the Big Society Tsar Lord Wei has resigned. As a general rule, anything that has a tsar will be a disaster, and this is no different. If the Big Society really were central not just to the prime minister's agenda but the day-to-day political focus of the Cabinet, it wouldn't need an appointed champion. So it's yet another turning point for the Big Society, and it shouldn't be allowed to wither and die.

The reaction to the Respublica report 'The Right to Retail' (which we commissioned) showed hard policy being drawn up on Big Society lines. The report was genuinely radical, with proposals for greater community powers to promote diverse high streets and a move away from corporate giants dominating local economies, with mutually run and community-owned businesses playing a greater role.

The reaction from across the political spectrum showed genuine interest in reshaping high streets and the retail landscape according to the needs of local people.

That's extremely gratifying, but government policy has carried on with barely a nod to Big Society principles. The fact that there is no town-centre-first policy, commitment to diversity or requirement for sustainable development in the Localism Bill shows just how far the Big Society agenda has to go.

My advice to Cameron is to stop talking and start making ministers deliver. Whether it's cutting back on regulation to free up small businesses, giving more support to smaller enterprises or helping local communities battle unwanted supermarkets, what's needed now is hard policy not rhetoric.

There have even been suggestions the Big Society will receive a shot in the arm if public offices and business fly the Union flag. Confusing this sort of populist gimmick with the Big Society shows just how far away from the original purpose the debate has shifted.

The PM should forget the tsars and flag-flying and make the Big Society real.

James Lowman is chief executive of the Association of Convenience Stores