Thursday, 19 July 2012

Simple Problems, Easy Answers

I have a Council colleague who regularly complains about what he calls ‘pub politics’ – the tendency of people, who haven’t really thought things through, and actually don’t know what they’re talking about, to propose ‘easy answers’.

But sometimes there ARE easy answers, and still nothing gets done.

A Problem with Litter
Tonight I attended a packed community meeting going mad about litter.  As the County Council officer who fielded most of the complaints remarked, it was perhaps a good job that it took place in a church!

But I could have solved that problem.  The Town Council already has a ‘Town Pride’ team of two with a vehicle; we are already paying for that.  If we could employ a team of a dozen on-the-ground litter-pickers, even part-time, I bet we could make Great Aycliffe the spick-and-spannest town in the country.

Meanwhile, in Great Aycliffe at the moment, there are some 250 young men and women, aged 18-24, on Job Seekers’ Allowance.  Would it cost the country so very much extra to employ a dozen of them as Council litter-pickers?  My guess is not so very much more, once you have factored in that their National Insurance and any PAYE would go back into the national kitty anyway.

An easy solution?

But then on the one hand you have a government which sees nothing wrong in paying JSA to young people to fill in forms – and millions more for them to go on unpaid, meaningless, ‘work experience’ – but which regards Council expenditure as an anathema which needs cutting to the bone … so there’s no chance of a vired budget to create jobs for these perfectly able young people.

And I would suggest we might apply to organise a programme of ‘workfare’, where the Council would take on young Job Seekers, train them, equip them, and give them meaningful employment cleaning up their town until they could find a better job … except that on the other hand we would find ourselves confronted by an army of idealistic people who would see any form of directed labour of that sort as ‘slave labour’ and exploitation, and the Council would be massacred on twitter.

So what happens?
Well, on the one hand we have thousands of perfectly healthy young people all over the country who have no job.  

And on the other we have towns all over the country with a litter problem trying to organise initiatives for volunteers and community groups to pick it up.

There are some situations where, you have to admit, the pub politicians have got a point.

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