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Barbara's Blog

THE DAMAGE DONE

20-11-2008

Barbara Panvel offers a wide-ranging and passionate analysis of the forces which have led to social breakdown in Britain.

Mick Temple wrote in The Stirrer: "PMQs encapsulate all that is wrong with the Commons," (see link here) but the sort of unruly behaviour seen there, which would put a school into 'special measures', is far less significant than the damage done by some of the decisions made by governments over the last fifty years.

Urban neighbourhoods were demolished in the 60s and 70s, destroying social networks and leaving people in the isolation of high-rise flats. Developers who lobbied parliament made great profits and, like politicians, did not have to live with the consequences.

Society has become less secure: as unemployment rose people were told by a government minister to 'get on your bike' and work hundreds of miles away from their family.

More people - at all income levels - are now living far from their natural kinship or geographical roots, without the influence, support and informed scrutiny of family and neighbours. Small children and old people suffer at the hands of those who should be caring for them. In the year to April 2007 nine per cent of murder victims were children, forty aged under five. A growing number of infants were killed by their parents.

In earlier times most people had a meaningful role to play, making goods and providing services for people in their region. Now up to 20% in some areas are unemployed, yet government approves the arrival of huge numbers of people from other countries to work, rather than educating their own citizens.

For reasons of fashion or short-term saving, government, police, transport authorities and then ordinary people lost sight of their own long-term interests as they rejected home built products for those made abroad.

The city council, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturing Advisory Service West Midlands angered industrial firms last December by organising a seminar to advocate out-sourcing.

A BCC member resigned because she felt that the Chamber should be doing more to support the interests of manufacturing rather than encouraging firms to export work abroad at the expense of manufacturing jobs in the region, explaining, "It may be old fashioned but I think firms have a moral duty to protect their employees and exporting manufacturing abroad is no way to do that".

Government, which enjoys a secure and generous pension provision, made decisions which damaged company pension schemes and had serious consequences for people who entered them in good faith years ago, only to suffer real losses on retiring.

The present financial crisis has been made worse by its lifting of regulations which enabled some stable building societies to become banks and take part in the reckless borrowing spree which government has repeatedly urged the public to join.

Other decisions, including privatisation of the rail, postal and health services, have greatly reduced the quality of service and employment opportunities offered.

While the poorest live in unsafe graffiti-ridden ghettos and die earlier, the affluent are rewarded even for incompetence.

Paul Gray, former chairman of HM Revenue & Customs, had to leave his job because of the loss of child benefit data - and did so with 2.3 million in pension and other payments. He was then appointed to a top Whitehall job on the same salary.

EDS, the company involved in the computer problems at the Child Support Agency and the biggest computer crash in Whitehall history at the Department for Work and Pensions, was later awarded another contract by the government.

At a recent meeting in the Council House and another one in the Allison Street Warehouse, different but complementary proposals were made for action which would vastly improve the social and economic life of the city.

More of them next week.....

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