Our local schools have remained closed which is fairly obvious to the casual observer, as staff – like many of their ‘public sector colleagues’, as we must now all learn to call them as the government’s policy of ‘fusion’ and joined up common purpose becomes more and more noticeable – are all working remotely from home. Residents will have varying opinions about this, particularly as they notice the numbers of people enjoying extended daily exercise walks while during ‘business hours’ and sporting suntans that a resident of a coastal Mediterranean resort would be proud of, one could be forgiven for thinking that many public sector workers, particularly those in jobs that they don’t like, are quite happy to ‘work’ from home and not return to work until it is totally safe to do so.
Walking along Audi Avenue the other evening it’s quite remarkable how many gardens now have blooming summer bedding in place on the pristine and manicured drives and lawns. Summer bedding and other supplies (garden furniture has been apparently a huge seller this season) being supplied by those who are not ‘key workers’ on furlough pay, and facing no threat at all from the virus which has so decimated the ranks of government departments across the nation.
One could also be forgiven for asking ‘even for a friend’ how many key workers have been sending their children to school during all this upheaval. One teacher of my acquaintance has been in school with colleagues and found to their disappointment that the answer is not as many as envisaged. What surprised working teaching staff is that the children of key workers attending school have been mostly girls. One can only assume from that that parents of girls think that their education is important, but even their number according to our teacher friend is much lower than could be reasonably expected. Figures published in the media show that on-line course work provided by schools has been patchy in its quality and take up and that generally parents of children in the independent sector have taken up on-line coursework and so on in greater numbers. The reason for that anomaly has not been questioned by the media in any great detail either.
Our local authority, in the shape of our district council, has for the moment it seems abandoned its policy of dealing with ‘terrorism prevention’, the subject of much discussion a couple of years ago, and the ‘climate emergency’ which we were all relieved to see was being tackled, and have placed it on the back burner of things to do, have now jumped on the band wagon of Covid Trace and Track, receiving more ‘funds’ from central government in the process. To what end nobody seems sure but it looks like a win-win situation for local politicians, now busily disrupting traffic patterns on various roads as they introduce 20 MPH zones in a town where it can take half an hour to drive two miles, one way street systems which, when trialled last time caused even more traffic chaos than usual, barriers on nominally widened pavements so that face covered masses of shoppers can queue in safety as they stand like living statues to gain access to their shop of choice, (that’s the ones privately owned rather than national companies who themselves are struggling to survive in the town). Just how this is all going to pan out when the expected hordes of national and international tourists fail to arrive is anyone’s guess.
It’s not all bad news though. Our local district council has also been hard at work and developed a new strategy – well, its executive have decided to help the area recover by working with ‘our’ communities and the economy, while at the same time resetting the business of the council and recovering the organisation along with councillors and democracy. You may well ask what they were doing before the crisis and where the money is coming from. Anyway they are going to ‘help’ communities build on connections they made during the emergency, get rough sleepers off the streets for good, create new jobs to support cycle and walking routes, create new opportunities with partners to reskill people made redundant.
All sounds terribly PC but no mention of people actually getting on and doing things for themselves as far as connections and the economy is concerned, or why everyone should need the dead hand of local government to re-generate ‘our’ town centres. As a start they are committed to the new ‘Track and Trace’. If that does not set the public’s alarm bells ringing nothing will. What ‘our’ councillors have had to say about all this executive action is not reported, but apparently the executive board is going to work with them and look after democracy. If this is the ‘new normal’ stand by for the big local and tax rises to come. I’m sure all the people who worked through the crisis, putting themselves and families at risk while doing so, the self-employed who had their business and livelihoods destroyed, in many cases with no assistance from local and government sources, will be very pleased with the new initiative as the new taxes and demands come in.
This, then, is the new normal when central government and the emergency services along with the ‘our’ NHS combine to give us all a new green, safe and local government guided future. I can’t wait.