Hart of the Matter
I suppose it is a natural result of the economic catastrophes of the last year or two that there will be cuts in services and rises in taxes, whether they be paid to local or national tiers of government.
Nevertheless, when everyone talks about rising out of the recession, or being less damaged by it than we thought, we need to take these things into consideration.
Itís like anything else in business Ė if you do well one year, donít do too well, because they always expect you to do even better the next year and that might not be achievable.
Similarly, if you accept cuts in services one year, donít accept too many because next year they will be looking to cut again.
Last time we came out of recession we still had all sorts of services in place locally which we have lost since, during a period of apparent affluence.
Haverhill struggled out of the recession of the late 1980s more slowly than other places, partly because it had been a manufacturing town and that area of activity had been worst hit.
It was the mid 1990s before we could truly see green shoots here. This time (we keep being told) Haverhill has not been as badly hit as other places, because its economy is more resilient and its jobs base is spread more widely than 20 years ago.
Nevertheless, it isnít all gain. Take the element of our council tax which goes towards funding the police, for instance. It never goes down when cuts are made in manpower. It just goes up, while resources go down.
Most people would agree that the police do a pretty good job in Haverhill Ė itís one of the safest towns in one of the safest counties in Britain, statistically.
But I doubt if we have many more than half the number of policemen based in Haverhill that there were 20 years ago. We have no traffic warden. The police station is closed to the public for most of the hours of darkness. There is no CID based here any more. There is no longer a courthouse in Haverhill (not strictly a police matter, but all to do with local justice).
The police will say that much of that is to do with different ways of policing nowadays, but I reckon that has largely been driven by cost-cutting, rather than the other way around.
In the end itís all about priorities, as I was arguing last week. We moan about inconsiderate parking (at least, I do), but without a traffic warden, what can anyone do?
They talk about putting in double yellow lines in some places Ė School Lane, Camps Road, wherever thereís a congestion point Ė but without enforcement, at least on occasions, no one is going to take any notice of them.
People seem to have a natural tendency to put their use of a motor car among the top priorities in their lives and in the life of the community around them.
I despair some days when I gaze along the new-look Pightle and see it packed with parked cars and vans. It had been turned into a really attractive little pedestrian cul-de-sac as part of the Tesco development.
The terrace of Victorian cottages, which used to bear that blackened look of homes doomed to be tortured day and night by heavy traffic, now has a sunny, almost trendy appearance.
But the whole scene is ruined by vehicles, while, at the rear, is a brand new car park specifically to service those residences, and almost always completely empty.
Efforts to improve parts of Haverhill to engender civic pride are never going to be effective if even the people who live here donít take any pride in them.
Haverhill does not have the obvious historic buildings which some towns enjoy, but it still has plenty of areas which were designed and built before the motor car.
If a town is to be attractive it either has to maintain its historic built environment in a pleasing manner, or replace it with modern buildings of a high standard of design and innovation.
We have already failed miserably in an attempt at the latter, in the 1960s, and if we need regulation to try to enforce the former, then so be it.
The police are community partners in that effort and, just because we have a generally peaceful and low-crime town, why should we be penalised by a reduction in resources to a level where they cannot properly fulfil that other part of their function?
After all, we are paying just as much, and it still goes up each year.