‘Big is beautiful’ became the cry to ‘save money’ because local people don’t want to pay or are unable to pay the level of local taxes to pay for local services. Income tax reached unbelievable heights in the Labour era of the 1970s. Local councils were made to merge, not many job losses but what was lost was truly local accountability and pride in ‘your’ town or county.
The local council increased staff and taxes but reduced services, civic pride became unfashionable along with the ancient robes, the Mayoral car was scrapped presumably to set an example and to further reduce local pride, a government edict required that car registration plates lost their local designatory letters and even tried to enforce the carrying of the EU logo on them.
At the same time the local ‘driving test centre’ was closed in favour of more modern facilities miles away.
The same with the police service. ‘Big was beautiful’ and local officers serving local people went out of the window in favour of mobile patrols and eventually the closure of many police stations. Police houses were sold off and the local accountability of the local ‘bobby on the beat’ became a thing of the past, along with all their local knowledge.
Out went the much-loved cottage hospital (remember Blair’s mantra in the 1990s – ‘Schools and Hospitals? The hospital turned into a hospital factory 15 miles away which struggles to fund its ever-increasing workload and staff levels and goes from one crisis to another. It was opened with great fanfare as a ‘centre of excellence’ – another slogan now looking rather tired.
In OUR town the railway station was demolished and became a ‘halt’ and services reduced, the railway maintenance works closed at the same time with job losses.
As car ownership increased, the bus services declined and in places ceased altogether leaving some of our rural communities without any public transport.
One of the cries of ex-service men, was ‘never volunteer for anything’ if ‘they’ want it doing then ‘they must pay for it’ and so it transpired. In the cradle to grave’ society that the welfare state promised fewer and fewer people volunteered for organisations that needed committed volunteers with many closed as a result.
The motorway age brought problems to OUR town too, increased pollution from traffic, road safety and traffic management issues and – not always obvious an increase in crime – by people able to commit crime in OUR town and then return to the big city.
In our town infrastructure is wearing out and services are stretched to the limit, no longer do we have a local connection, with many of the public services contact is now mostly by email or by telephone to a ‘hub’ meaning no personal contact at all.
Streets and car parks are dirty, litter is everywhere, homeless by choice or otherwise sleep in shop doorways, pavements go unrepaired causing often serious accidents in older people, ambulances can take up to an hour or so to respond, there is no longer a local ambulance station, the fire station has been under threat of closure and full time staff are to be reduced.
The police no longer provide reassurance of foot patrols, anti-social behaviour goes unchecked and is increasing even in daylight hours.
Many of the clubs have closed, along with the pubs, the post office, the police station, the infant school, the cinema, even a local recreation park. Youth organisations struggle to get volunteers and to retain them, there are some exceptions though usually large national charities that offer discounts and free membership to volunteers, clubs struggle to appoint ‘officers’ who needs the work and aggravation? Who would want to be a school governor and be buried in paperwork and government restrictions and propaganda? Who would want to work with young people in today’s climate? Who anyway has the time to volunteer when they are acting either as unpaid carers for their own parents or for their grandchildren?
This is what successive governments have created over many years, it was indeed a slow march through the institutions but now the cracks are showing , their actions have destroyed whole industries, institutions, communities, family life and the social order and – if the present situation continues – the U.K as we have known it.
And these people talk about localism, (this from parliamentary candidates parachuted into the area after being accepted by who knows from an acceptable ‘list’). What for? To make the little people feel good and ‘we’re all in it together.’ Too late, you destroyed the social and material fabric of OUR Town, the stability, the pride the good will and the trust, the unity and the community spirit.
Don’t lecture me about ‘community engagement,’ or community cohesion’ try engaging yourself OUR localism is OUR town and OUR country which you are destroying or, some would say, have already destroyed.