Home Page Taxpayers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your irrelevance 30/03/12

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

Do you ever get the impression that the people in charge havenít got the first idea what they are doing?


In any large organisation you would probably find that those at the bottom would completely agree with that sentiment - the managers spend all their time making costly errors which the workers do their best to correct and get paid peanuts for it.


Last week a touring theatre company brought an adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists to Haverhill Arts Centre and, as you might expect, there was a good turnout from the local Labour party faithful. There was also a group of students there from Castle Manor, because the book is one of those perennial set texts, chosen, no doubt, because of its political influence.


If you donít know it, the novel, written before the First World War, was a socialist icon, and believed to be Stalinís favourite. In the light of the failure of communism, one might expect it to have had the gloss knocked off it and it is true there are parts of the argument in favour of the workers which sound a bit Utopian in the more sophisticated economy of the 21st century.


But the basic tenet satirising capitalism still holds good Ė itís just that, as with democracy, we have come to realise that, although itís bad, all the other systems are a lot worse.


However, we in the masses canít hit out at individual big bosses any more, as they could a hundred years ago, because they donít generally exist now. It is corporations, bureaucracies and conglomerates which rule our lives, and we are just as helpless as any downtrodden workers ever were.


For all the talk of Ďaccountabilityí, Ďgreater democracyí, Ďlocalismí and all the rest of it, the poor old taxpayer is at the bottom of the pile.


Look at todayís big issues in Haverhill. We want to improve the townís retail offer, but it is rapidly becoming clear the real power is in the hands of landlords whom our democratically elected representatives canít even track down.


Many would like to stop illegal driving and parking in the town centre, but our police canít do it. Now that there is little hope of a traffic ban by barriers, the next tactic might be to employ someone to do the job of the traffic warden we are no longer allowed to have. But, to do that, we would have to get Suffolk County Council to decriminalise parking on the streets, and they wonít do it.


People are scared about the street lights being switched off between midnight and 5.30am on our estates. They make representations and the county council tell us we are making too much fuss. No one else is bothered, they claim (donít you believe it).


Another council officer has joined a long line of people, originally Bury-based, but now Ipswich-based, who canít understand how anyone in far-away little Haverhill thinks they deserve to have an opinion about anything.


The county council has consulted Haverhill people about a lot of things in recent years (itís the fashion), but it mostly ignores the results. Look at the change back to two-tier education, the street lights switch-off, and the privatisation of Place Court.


In this last case, 4,000 people signed a petition against it and the county council took no notice of it whatever, because it didnít suit their wider purpose.


However, when 65 per cent of 108 people were not in favour of pedestrianisation, they took full regard of their views because it suits them fine to save the money it would cost to implement.


This sort of double standard is endemic everywhere in public service provision. A very neat one was highlighted at Haverhill Town Council this week when a councillor questioned the police on how they prioritise what they do.


You may say they have public meetings of the grandly-named Safer Neighbourhood Team to decide on their priorities, but that is little more than cosmetic Ė one of those fashionable consultation exercises that give residents the illusion of control or accountability. Almost nothing of real importance arises.


The really important issues which the councillor highlighted showed prioritisation in action without consultation. It concerned these two facts: a) the police have decided they are powerless to prevent illegal parking and driving in the town centre; b) residents call police about groups of youths gathering, and police trundle along and disperse them.


The action taken is about as effective as giving a ticket to a motorist Ė in other words when the police have gone away, the activity returns. Hanging about, although intimidating, is not illegal unless a real nuisance is being caused, and that is a judgement call anyway. What the motorists are doing is illegal all the time. Yet the police choose to act on one and not on the other.


When it comes to street lighting, the county council and the police are now passing the buck backwards and forwards between them. And whatís at the root of it all? Ethics? Morality? Community? Money. Our money, which we have to give them to pay for these cock-ups.


No, mateys. Them whatís in charge ainít got a clue what theyíre doin.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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