In those dim and distant days when Margaret Thatcher was running her one-woman campaign to change the face of Britain, the left used to have a slogan about the Tories that said ” they know the cost of everything and the value of nothing!”
And, it struck me this morning how well that slogan sums up the behaviour and direction of the ruling Tory/Lib Dem coalition on Blackburn with Darwen Council and their hasty decision to make a series of cuts to community centres and leisure facilities in an attempt to balance the budget. The cost of the facilities that are going to be scrapped hasn’t been spelt out particularly well but let’s say that, after redundancies are taken into account, it’s around £100,000 but the value of these facilities to the users and to the town are unknown and could be incalculable. Almost inevitably, the facilities are located in the most disadvantaged parts of the town and they offer potentially life-enhancing opportunities to children, in particular, who probably won’t get the chance anywhere else or again. Whether viewed from the perspectve of improving public health and life-expectancy or the chance to take part in sporting or cultural activities from swimming to squash to martial arts to joining a majorettes troupe, these are vital opportuniities that shouldn’t be thrown away by some impulsive piece of wrecking-ball politics.
The Coalition leaders will point to the presence of a brand new leisure facility in Darwen as an alterrnative but, realistically, the chances of a non-driver with children who lives in Shadsworth getting to Darwen on spasmodic public transport is remote and probably won’t happen. Even more crazily, the Coalition leaders may point to their suggestion that the facilities could be run by the local community without any input from the Council. This kind of lunatic idea just shows how far removed these guys are from reality……people with already busy and complex lives don’t have the time to take on responsibilities that are currently being carried out by trained professionals, nor do they have the time to start raising significant sums of money to keep these centres running.
Of course, no-one should be surprised that a Tory-led council is making these type of cuts or these kind of other worldly suggestions because this is what Tories do. It might be a long timing coming but this is a return of the Thatcherites! They want to reduce the size of the state and, where better to start, than the provision of public sporting and cultural facilities that the Tories don’t use and would rather see provided by a profit-making organisation. The Liberal Democrats, however, used to have a different political culture but, in their desperate urge to share power, they have sacrificed their politics and have become cheer-leaders for the Tories.
So, it’s time to dust down that old slogan but, unlike the 1980s, this time it applies to both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats!
Probably, time to get in the loft and see what else is there from those old days because this new vandalism isn’t going to go away for some time!