Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Cutting the Spending - 'Tales' Style

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…


  1. I'm ambivalent about the library closures for a number of reasons. I have seldom used the library here, and probably never will again (my evil ex-boss works there now and I tremble at the thought of her still)
    The world is changing, books are changing. Much as I used to love both books and libraries, how I access knowledge is utterly different now.
    People who read will read, whether you shut libraries or not. Those who don't, won't care.
    I'm more concerned about leisure centres, really.

  2. You're right Viv, the world is changing... I think that's what's rattled me so much, the prospect of something which has always been there, changing...

    I've climbed down off my soapbox now, much more mellow this afternoon :-) I usually try to avoid ranting, but I was in a tizz when I wrote this! xxx

  3. Well Sweetie, climb back up!

    As a recreation and educational children's theatre director I am very sensitive to the need for direct social contact and interaction, hands-on creative projects and most important of all, the ability to be able to use your imagination. Physical movement be it by dance or sports is much needed in this day of increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

    To start slashing the budgets of what the powers that be see as unnecessary entertainment is wrong on so manty levels. I'm not even sure why books seem to be coming a thing of the past.
    In sooth, it frightens me. Greatly.

    I guess I'm a purist when it comes to books but nobody ever came to love the Skin Horse on a Kindle........



  4. Thanks Mimi, I feel the same way towards books. I know electronic might be the way forwards, but I prefer the feel of handling the real thing.

    I think the thing which really wound me up this morning is the thought of swimming pools and sports facilities closing when, as you say, sedentary lifestyles are on the increase. Where are children supposed to learn to swim if public pools are closed? It is insane.

    And I stand by what I said; we've been going through 'death by committee' to sort out a school for my boy. There's a lot of money being spent by a lot of officials in the name of following pointless guidelines and protocols. It is a nonsense.

  5. You know though, to respond to one of Viv's points, libraries aren't just about books these days--they are, in fact, precisely the places where people can access those other kinds of information. And that's especially important for anyone who, say, can't afford to own a computer or pay for Internet access.

    And libraries, at their finest, are even more than that. The libraries I've been lucky enough to call mine are gathering places, places to hear music, see movies, attend workshops and events of all kinds--for free. They offer access to online databases and other research tools that would otherwise be impossible for average folks to access without either thousands of dollars or some sort of university affiliation. They offer safe, supportive places for kids of various ages to do homework (and get help) or meet up with friends. They offer summer programs to encourage kids (and sometimes adults) to read more. They sometimes offer--or at least host--literacy tutoring for adults. The list goes on.

    I have to say, I think the very fact that the world is changing into such an information-dependent place is all the *more* reason why we need more libraries and excellently well-trained librarians on the job. (And you just know that if they're closing libraries, it won't be the ones in well-off neighborhoods. :-{ )

    And Sam, I'm so sorry you're having to struggle so hard to get your son the resources he needs. That is beyond frustrating.

  6. Thanks Amy... it is beyond frustrating, and it's wrong too. I'll be charitable and say I'm sure the system isn't deliberately complicated, but here at the coal-face, it feels that way!

  7. I hate what's going on right now with all the cuts. It's so short-sighted, idiotic, cynical. I hate to think what will be left of the country when Cameron's done.

    Hope things get sorted out for your son soon.


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