The Politics of ...

The Politics of ...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bin There Done That

You do realise that at some point in the next few years the most obviously seen of your council services - refuse collection - will no longer be part of your council tax - the council will subsidise it but you will have to pay whatever private company collects rubbish to take away anything that isn't recyclable or can't be composted.

Many people might think this is a good thing; a way of encouraging people to be more conscientious about their waste disposal. But the reality is that in many places, there are occupants who don't understand, will not be educated or simply don't give a shit.

The entire business of waste disposal is ludicrous; it should be something the council should always supply; it should attempt to educate people, but it should also be about providing the most direct service that council tax payers see for their money. To charge people, like they do in the USA, is actually a very good way of causing massive unnecessary conflict.

Take this scenario: your black bin - the one that contains all the stuff that can't be recycled or composted - is weighed every time it is collected; at the end of a 3, 6 or 12 month period, you receive a bill. It will have averaged out your waste across a period of time and this will be the tariff you pay for the following year - although black bins will still be weighed. The poor, the devious, the scoundrels, the ignorant will be faced with huge bills and many of them will know this and they will resort to a number of ways of 'cutting their bills'. They will surreptitiously put their own rubbish in the bins of others; they will fly tip; they will cram rubbish into the bottoms of brown or green bins, in the hope they can fake the bin men; but if you contaminate recycling bins with non-recycling goods, the entire bin becomes rubbish.
Short of issuing everyone with padlocks for their bins, which have to be opened the day or collection; or getting each bin men to empty the contents of each bin into the back of the wagon before it's crushed, so they can sift through it - which won't happen because of HSE rules; them logistics of doing this is ridiculous. It will cause fights between neighbours, breakdown communities, lead to witch hunts and ostracism and causing more money to be directed to stem the flow of antisocial problems as a result.

I see enough ignorance and thoughtless retaliation to know that rubbish is a contentious issue and even the most slovenly and unhygienic of people still want some of their rubbish to be taken away. Remember the human conditions people on those Life of Grime programs lived in? That will grow; people won't throw things away because they won't be able to afford to or because they're scared to open their bins because every one else will use them too.

I've also noticed in some places; not Northampton as such, that public bins are not being replaced and in some cases not being put in to new parks and community areas. Dog bins, yes, but litter bins - no. We can take our rubbish home with us. we can move it all around rather than actually dispose of it. Out in the far reaches of the region there is a plan to build a big incinerator which will dispose of 60% of the rubbish and generate not only 15% of the electricity, but about 300 new jobs. The locals are opposed to it; not because it is a pollution threat, but because it will be an eyesore... Nimby-ism strikes again, but do you see the point? Most people are nimbys and rubbish is a real nimby issue.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Only on a Blue Watch

The RMT are calling for civil disobedience. UNISON want a series of crippling strikes. The entire Trades Union movement appears to be gearing itself up for a year of hell.

But something is different. This isn't the Poll tax riots or the civil unrest of Thatcher's era. This has more of the middle class march against the Iraq war, back in the early part of this century. You remember the one where the majority of the marchers were not mohicaned punks or covert BNP activists, but the well-to-do families from the better neighbourhoods, who were appalled that Tony Blair could lead us into a war with Iraq. A war, no more justified than the Falklands War (but none of middle England went to the streets for that one).

How many threats of civil disobedience did we have when Labour were in power? How many riots were there? Strikes, yes, but most were over fairness rather than survival. Whenever Westminster gets the whiff of something blue, the part of the country with a moral backbone grows indignant and does a Peter Finch from the film Network and they stand up and say, "we're not going to take this any more."

Only with a Tory led government would we have leaders of unions advocating action against our elected leaders.

The government and its group of advisers are the only people who believe that the impending cuts will not affect the poor. Every other fiscal think tank and organisation are wringing their hands and forecasting mass starvation for the poor. One of them is bound to be closer than the other. I said six months ago that if the Tory's got a whiff of power there would be civil unrest and now it seems I'm not the only one. I haven't done anything to incite it; I've been strangely reticent in my off-white ivory tower; preferring to sit and watch the ConDems flounder and fail. So if isolated little me can have a prophecy about the future...

One of the union leaders made a very good analogy on the TV this morning. Why is the benefits fraud department spending vast amounts of money assigning 'agents' to watch the houses of people who may or may not be perpetrating some kind of benefits fraud, when the tax office could be looking at ways of stopping the top 2% of the richest people in the country from housing their money in Cayman Island bank accounts and avoiding paying any tax whatsoever? Just one of these rich Tory benefactors, the ones who have as say in the running of the country, but don't contribute anything to it, would accrue more money than a thousand fraud inspectors tracking a thousand benefit fraudsters. I'd never advocate benefits fraud, but surely people like Lord Ashcroft are far worse?

What amazes me more than anything else are the Liberals. I cannot believe a centre left party would have sold itself down the river for a hint of power. If I was a prophet regarding the looming of civil unrest, let me don my wizard's hat and cape again and look into the crystal ball again...

In the summer of 2011, with public transport at a halt thanks to strikes; nurses threatening to go on strike as hospital waiting lists increase, the police federation challenging the 'no strike' clause in their contracts, with firemen reduced to putting out fires only, with a reduced staff in front line positions constantly under threat and in need of justifying their existence, a number of Liberal MPs will walk to the other side of the house. There will be a massive upsurge in internal dissension amongst the Liberals ranks and the coalition will fall apart. The Tories will attempt to run the country via a minority government, but by the end of the summer another general election will be called and while this one will also have no overall winner, it will be Labour with the balance of power. The Liberals will be reduced to a handful of seats in the south west and Scotland. The divides inside the Tory party will become all too clear, once they realise they may never hold majority power again and they tear themselves apart. Labour will raise taxes on the rich, find the cuts in other ways; the right wing papers will forecast that all of our rich and clever people will leave for other countries, but few will, because everywhere else is just as bad!

I don't know if its my age or if it really is this sense of doom pervading my life and those around me; but I've never known people to have such a gloomy outlook. There's this resignation amongst a lot of people that there's nothing we can do and even if there was we wouldn't stop it. I try to be positive about the future; but look at the jobs section of your local paper - you'll be lucky to see more than half a dozen pages of jobs and all of them are on or about the minimum wage. Look at the number of empty shops and half built sites that are sitting dormant, because no one has any faith in them succeeding and no one has any money to spend in them. If your kid is in a shiny brand new school, then praise the Lord, because the ones who are still sitting in drafts and watching the rain come in through holes in the ceilings are going to stay that way. But, there is a bright side, someone will make a mint out of our forthcoming misery, someone always does.

At the end of October, the country is steeling itself for measures that most believe will affect us all. Because many councils and organisations are already shedding jobs in anticipation of this, by November I expect the largest unions will have mobilised with the intention of disrupting as much of Christmas as is possible. It will be horrible for people; no post, no trains, no buses, maybe no refuse collection, high prices and this time, there won't be that many dissenting voices, because everyone earning under £50k a year is going to feel it and that means most of us are going to feel it.