Thursday, February 1, 2007

Goodnight and Good Luck, or Where the ?£$! Has All the Money Gone?

Today's image is Man in the Moon, by Lloyd King at AhaPuzzles

I'm feeling very politically engaged at the moment here at the Heights, for many reasons. I saw the picket line at the gate of the Historic Dockyard yesterday morning, as the women on strike stood shivering and cautious in the morning cold. When I went to speak to them, they protested that their reasons for being there was nothing like "what they're saying on the news!" to which I grinned and replied, "No, it never is!"

I watched the coverage on the news last night and I still cannot fathom why the BBC would report so negatively about strikes? Other than that they sit squarely in the pocket of the Government, but that's just ludricous. Then again, I saw Andrew Marr interviewing George Galloway the other night on the BBC and could not believe how slanted the journalism was. I'm no follower of Galloway - I can tell you that he's controversial, and there my knowledge sputters out like a candle in the wind - but I know that good journalism does not involve asking meaningless questions like, "Do you love your country, Mr Galloway?" I thought I was having a flashback to Senator McCarthy.

Anyhoo, I digress. The women on the picket said that they were striking because of the ongoing cuts in public services, of which the Naval Base Review is a part. Whichever way the Naval Base Review goes, Portsmouth will - and is already - face cuts. Just like the public services are, year on year. As I stood at the gate talking to the women and apologising profusely for crossing their picket line (which they were very nice about, but if I'd have been better organised, I could have taken the day off), I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment. I pondered the cuts in public services, the Naval Base Review and I couldn't help but wonder, Where in the name of all decent people Has All the Money Gone?

If any of you know the answer to this, please let me know. I'm not kidding, I'm genuinely interested. Because I must admit, at first I thought it was just here, in this city, and that maybe that bloody Gary Spinnaker overspending, lousy-contracts fiasco was why Portsmouth City Council has a funding shortfall of £6 million for this year and next. But then I read on a library site yesterday that Cornwall has a shortfall of £10 million!

Are we bad councils? Do we spend too much at the tuck shop or something? Or is this actually a broad national phenomenon? And why? Is it the money we've spent on Iraq? Is it the impact of a global economy in which it is harder for nation states to protect their economic interests as money moves more freely around the globe? Can we genuinely not afford our public services anymore? Is there actually less money in the national pot than before?

Does anyone reading this understand these issues enough to explain them to me over a cup of coffee?

You may say (if you're still reading) that it's too dull for anyone to care about, and normally my feeling on the economy is fairly similar. But I'm starting to see a genuine trickle-down effect (as opposed to Thatcher's theoretical one) from these issues in my daily life, which is starting to make me care very deeply about the answers. For instance, the Naval Base Review and the impact that losing or further reducing our base may have on the city. As someone who has lived here her whole life (not that that makes my feelings on the matter more important than anyone else's), it scares me to think of losing the base. So much of the identity of the city is tied to it and I wonder about the city's ability to sustain such a hit to the local economy.

And then there are the stories about the Council closures and the yearly pre-budget hysteria that helps no one. Stories emerge about services closing down or being lost and departments are forced into a phony debate, whereby PCC is placed in a defensive position of saying - as has happened in the past -

'Of course we won't be closing this library/museum/surgery/residential home, we wouldn't do that to the local community'

instead of going on the record about the real issue -

'We don't want to close any services - we're a council, after all, running services is kind of our raison d'etre - but all the money seems to have gone and we don't know how to keep all of these services open without it - any ideas?'

Following which we could all sit down over a nice cup of tea and ask questions like -

But where has the money gone, and why does it keep disappearing and why is this happening in so many places?

And here I come full circle. Any ideas?

Oh, and here's Mika in session singing Billy Brown. This is a blog about culture you know.

1 comment:

Dill said...

I agree with you Saa, i am scared about the closure of the dockyard as well, our history and culture in the city has been built on its naval connections......how will this effect us?

the money, well now there is a question, i suspect a cash for question, if you pay Tony Blair enough he may give you the answer to that one.

I will meet you for a cup of tea anytime.........

Love you.

S. xxx