What a morning! Here in ‘Tales’ things are looking a bit frazzled. Feathers are ruffled, and hackles raised. Why? Lots of things, but what’s really got ‘Tales’ going this morning is the announcement that Manchester city council is to save money by closing libraries, leisure centres, and swimming pools.
I live near Manchester, although under a different local authority. I’ve already blogged about the threat to my local library; this morning its closure seems even more likely.
Discussion with friends reveals that while we all oppose these closures, few of us use the facilities on a regular basis. I’m not sporty, but the children have attended lessons at our local sports centre. They’ve been swimming since they were tiny. And I use the library, although few of my friends do. But when you can buy books so cheaply online, maybe it’s not such a big deal. If so few of us are actually using these facilities, perhaps we don’t really need them.
So why am I flustered? Well, as a child of the seventies, I grew up with libraries, leisure centres and swimming pools being part of the fixtures and fittings. I’ve never lived anywhere in the UK which didn’t have these amenities. The prospect of suddenly being denied them is unsettling, unfamiliar. And it feels we’re taking a step backwards, back into unenlightened times when the poorer sections of society had no access to such things. I believe this will cause more division in an already divided country in which social mobility is increasingly limited, and the gulf between rich and poor is growing.
Today, my younger son’s case for a special school placement is going before its third committee meeting in four months. In the interim, reports have been written and revoked, and various meetings held by an education authority determined to follow a principle, in spite of the concrete facts which render it untenable. In reality, the whole conundrum could have been solved by one person and a telephone four months ago. Money, is being wasted, and we are but one small and insignificant case. In my opinion, the financial savings which could be made at both local and national government level by removing the layers and layers of bureaucracy, could fund everything from swimming pools to school facilities. Closing local facilities is a lazy solution, avoiding the real, hidden issues of where money is being squandered.
These closures are going to result in the need for more spending in years to come, as the younger generation grow up without the access to education and a healthy lifestyle required to create a more equal society. I don’t know what our country is going to look like when we emerge from these turbulent times, but the view down here in ‘Tales’ this morning looks decidedly gloomy. Madness indeed…