Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coping with un-imagined complexity

Another meeting straight after the lunchtime Eucharist in Cardiff Castle central tower. The Countdown 2009 Transport, Way-finding and Public Realm combined Focus Groups, still trying to resolve outstanding issues on all three fronts. To be honest, we've not moved beyond transport yet, as there are so many sticking points. Today we heard that there'd been a recent meeting of taxi owners with police and others. A very useful practical report was presented, spelling out the problems and how they need to be managed.

I didn't attend that meeting, but Sister Wendy did. I was able to tip her off about it on Good Friday, and with her first hand experience of taxi problems on the clubbing scene, I felt sure she'd be able to make a worthwhile contribution.

We also had a valuable presentation on city traffic management and the policy challenges this has to embrace. Again, this is one of those issues which all city travellers have an opinion about, yet rarely do end-users have any breadth of perspective on the complexity of factors which contribute to making transport flow. It's bad now, scheduled to get worse, according to current predictive models. However environmental crisis pressures are likely to take a new form in coming decades. The cost of car ownership may well become prohibitive due to the cost of fuel, carbon taxes and congestion charges, and that will increase demands for public transport. Will the city's systems to up to the challenge?

Down to County Hall this evening for a meeting of the Street Carers' Forum Representative Group. Our task, to thrash out the final form of the training evening for volunteers, planned for the end of May. Group members expressed their concerns about the impact of the collapse of the MAST social housing scheme for vulnerable people. This crisis is a result of a change in government policy towards the reception of housing benefit. It could precipitate a hundred or more people on to the streets, and that will have an added impact on those providing voluntary care.

Having been privileged to hear the other side of the story, I was able to share with the group my understanding of just how much hassle this is causing those charged with statutory duties of care, working within the Council. An exercise in prudent financial stewardship in Whitehall in the wake of the recession leads to a demand that local government review local practise. The outcome topples
a local service providor who used his initiative in response to the needs of the homeless. What happens in the voluntary sector mirrors what happens also in industry, even though the mechanisms are very different.

In the next round of economic development, stability and sustainability of initiative will play a different role altogether - providing everyone learns from the mistakes of the past decade.

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