By Ken Usman Smith
Localism and the overarching Big Society is seen as the way forward and a once in a generation shift of power is emerging as Parliament puts meat on the bones of politicians wish lists. But in this time of corrupt practices, sleaze and risk taking for personal profit that’s seen the media, the financial institutions and parliament itself tainted there is a huge risk being taken.
Simply put people seem now to be able to buy any service that public sector once delivered as a civic responsibility. In the NHS life itself has a price and a cost, a drug or hospital service has to be economic, and the life of one person is no longer priceless but is measured. And if it is found not to be the economic best choice, then death is the winner.
In Councils the drive is to deliver only what is required by legislation and anything else is deemed to be un-necessary. And if its delivered cheaper by ‘some-one else’ then that’s the way to go. The old people’s homes closing, the Hospital Wards closing, The Schools left in decrepit buildings. Overwhelmed Teachers and Social Workers and others caring for the vulnerable are seeing an erosion of standards and a corresponding decline in the standards of living of their own families.
And Councils have many quasi-judicial powers that are in play daily. But are we seeing those powers moving from an established integrity to a tainted and malpractice risked new age? Clause 124 of the Localism Bill clearly places financial consideration ahead of all others. It is already being seen as a ‘cash for sprawl’ clause. In essence when planning decisions are being taken, a judicial arm of local government, the Council is now deciding what’s to be built not only to balance the developers and local community interests, but to take into account what it can financially gain. And that’s a very, very slippery slope. Especially when taken with other changes, such as the ability for Councillors to now lobby for or against schemes and still also vote on them stating that they have not of course ‘pre-determined’ the outcome.
But it’s the cost of the Too Big Society that’s led us here we are told. We have lived beyond our means and now it’s the reckoning. But that’s the issue we all have in this sector, as the idea of local accountability and neighbourhood led society is promoted. It’s the reverse of Economies of Scale as we seek to duplicate our Town Hall and Government services down to a local level. That must and will cost more, and the politician’s who say it will not areas simply ignoring business skills and saying what they and the Party wants to be true.
The Sale of The Century is placing all those hard won and decade developed services and Social Assets on the equivalent of a public sector E-Bay. There may be some social enterprises and 3rd sector bidders, but the whole thrust of government ideology is around who pays wins. And that’s big private sector organisations where profits come first and service must be efficient at all costs to be profutable. A laudable aim in business, but why are we placing decades of hard won social capital in a shop window and risking its future to a rape and pillage mentality. There will be exceptions, but shareholder value is a hungry master to serve.
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