Sunday 16 November 2014
The blunt end of the cuts
Cousins who have researched the paternal side of my family tree tell me that their enquiries come to a full stop in the mid 19th century with a Luke Wrigley, who appeared in our area apparently from nowhere and was a road-sweeper.
Perhaps because I have inherited some of his genes I find our present day road-sweeper a very affable chap. He's certainly very efficient, in spite of the challenges set up for him by my less considerate fellow townsmen and women. Unfortunately, rumour has it that his job is to come to an end, along with the maintenance of all but the largest of our parks, because as part of expenditure cuts imposed by the central government our local authority is likely to reduce the road cleaning budget by some 75% and the park maintenance budget by some 30%.
When I enquired as what if anything would avoid such devastation I was told the major areas to be protected were for the protection children and care of the elderly. Well, that's the sharp end and it's hard to argue with it, but it is nevertheless sad that our relatively smart and attractive civic environment is to become increasingly shabby and neglected. It is the poorest of course, who have the greatest need for, and make the greatest use of, our parks, of which there are several very well maintained ones in our area.
And all this so the Tories can implement their ideologically motivated public spending cuts while the economy remains in recession and Keynesian policies indicate that the reverse is required: more street cleaners, better maintained parks, and park custodians with peaked caps to limit vandalism and maintain public lavatories in a state of fragrant cleanliness if not exactly beauty.
In the 1950s the great American economist James K Galbraith, in "The Affluent Society," predicted this "private affluence and public squalor." Our government seems, alas, to be pursuing it with enthusiasm.
I suppose the privately affluent don't rely so much as the rest of us on clean and tidy streets and well-kept parks. Even if they don't live in gated communities they drive in their 4x4s to take their kids to school and do their shopping, and have their own gardens so have no need of parks.