Wednesday, 26 November 2008

PBR - not enough about the community

The Government have taken the robust action which we all hope will be sufficient to limit the extent of the downturn and limit the pain caused to those who are least able to deal with financial hardship. They are to be congratulated on this. It is perhaps inevitable that Government's of any tinge become bold and dynamic in a crisis. It is however, a little sad that it has taken such a crisis to bring about this sea-change in the Government's attitude to the power and role of the state.

Listening to the Chancellor, it struck me that even now, the Government is not saying enough about communities - the communities we all live in. The Government is understandably trapped in the headlights of an impending recession, so I am not going to berate them for their actions. Far from it. I would just suggest that now might be the time for Labour to seize the political initiative in a space which the Tories have been cleverly occupying - communities, volunteering, the so-called Third Sector. Perhaps the Government could spend large sums of money in building community centres, youth centres, as part of scheme akin to Surestart. We have seen how well this has worked for babies and toddlers. Why not show the Government's commitment to giving youths something constructive to do, as well as providing communities with the resources necessary to achieve this - physical buildings in each community. Not only would this piece of Keynes-inspired public works put people to work, but it would be evidence that the Government is willing to spend large amounts of money on ordinary people, and on young people, not just on propping up banks (no matter how important such action are to avoid economic meltdown).

What we need are positive suggestions in these dark and uncertain times. Places where young people can come together to do constructive things like make music are far more important than policy-makers think. The Tories would never invest Government money in them, so now is a chance for us to place some clear red water between us and them. Such centres would be open to all parts of the community, but could perhaps operate on the proviso that ethnic groups are not allowed to run events or courses which cater only for their own ethnicity. I.e. this is publicly funded space in which all citizens should mix TOGETHER, rather than build walls around themselves.

These are just some early morning ramblings which need much more thought...

To all three readers - "over and out".

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