Saturday, March 17, 2007

Winners and losers

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In the distance this evening, the sounds of celebration, as a result of Wales' Rugby victory this afternoon. The city centre was full of people of all ages, male and female in rugby supporters' shirts, a happy raucous sort of atmosphere, less nerve racking than when a football match is on at the stadium. Often there's tension in the air. Happily, the police have become very skilled at handling these big occasions, when an extra seventy thousand supporters turn up. Regrettably policing doesn't stretch to the insistence that all bus drivers switch off their motors, to reduce the level of noisome fumes polluting the air. I hope that one day this will be the case. If half of the hundred or so buses that turn up leave their motors running for many hours, this has a significant impact on air quality - even when there's a cold wind blowing like today.

With hundreds of extra police officers doing weekend duties on match days, leave has to be taken in lieu during the weeks that follow. This reduces patrolling officers on the streets to a bare minimum during the day, and it also slows down investigation of crimes. Since the car parks have been demolished, the addicts who haunt them, either to trade drugs, burgle vehicles to raise income to feed the habit, or simply take drugs therin have to find somewhere else to go. This past few weeks there have been signs of surreptitious drug taking going on in a secluded corner of the north aisle, despite the flow of people through the church much of the time. There have been several more purse thefts as well from unwitting people in the tea-room. We've been promised some CCTV cameras, but are awaiting their installation. It's keeping us on the alert, and we've decided to restrict opening hours to the time the tea-room is operating until they are installed.

Some days now, there are people out begging unhindered next to cash-points, on the main streets. Out on the pathway through the churchyard, in addition to the regular guy who sits there opposite the church gate, there's another one or two waiting just around the corner for him to net his quota for a fix (market rate, a fiver) and leave the pitch free. All because the regular police patrols are unlikely to happen due to the police needing to take leave. This is the ignored every day price (on top of the huge extra cost in police overtime) for all these prestigious events in the stadium. And let's not mention the litter mountain, on the streets, in the churchyard, piling up in the church entrance, to be cleared before I can get in for the eight o'clock service tomorrow morning. We all get to pay for things nobody asked us if really wanted them.

The County's budget is causing trouble due to the impact of a huge over-spend on social services. The details of this I'm not really aware of, but the result is cutbacks in schools, highways and other services. Social services has been a problem area for some time, not living up to expectations. It looks as if extra funding has not really sorted the problems. I wonder if this is anything to do with the rising scale of need? Extra care for the growing number of elderly people with health care problems, support workers for people with disabilities - all valid causes, but still likely to be under-provided for. What bothers me is the limited amount of provision to de-toxify addicts, and help them resolve their often complex problems that drive them to substance abuse in the first place. There are so many wounded and weak people around, and they are demanding. But, a society is only as good as its ability to care for its needy members. So much investment is made in either the pursuit of leisure or in defending our society and possessions from threat of violence, that would be much better spent on giving a better life to those broken by suffering. It's left to people's immense fund of good-will to raise money for charities to tackle issues which the moral poverty of our social policy fails to address. Thank heavens. I just wish a shift in state priorities that could make a difference was somewhere on the horizon. Will it figure in upcoming local elections? I doubt it.

1 comment:

Mike Cridland said...

Good post!

You would think with all the wealth that exists in the country that there should be enough money to support the weak and the marginalized in our society?