A colleague of mine, after having overseen the settling in of the Private Sector New Deal for Young People in Solihull (a topic for another day), was transferred to Kings Norton Three Estates New Deal for Communities (NDC) Programme 2000-2010.
He provided the quote above after spending some time with the programme, another ‘lame brain’ initiative from Gordon Brown. As I mentioned in this post, there is a logical way to approach developing ideas to spend money on regenerating an area. Three Estates undertook a written survey and, in summary, the respondents wanted to tackle dog ordure and improve street lighting. Well, the budget was £50 million over ten years and there are only so many lamp posts one may put up. In addition, ideally we would like people to clean up after their dogs. Your dog may poop, but you must scoop!
I did, in private, observe that in Paris they had chaps on mopeds with tanks of liquid nitrogen on their backs as well as vacuum cleaners. They sprayed the ordure with the nitrogen and then vacuumed up the now frozen faeces. Even so, that was unlikely to put much of a dent in £50 million! I was, though, being facetious and not in front of the residents.
I guess it was not surprising that faced with £50 million the residents had, when consulted, defaulted to what are fairly common bugbears in most communities. The next step (in the jargon) was to drill down further. Thus my colleague and others were sent out into the community to interview members of the Silent Majority (for whom so many claim to speak) and find out their views about what should happen in their area. One morning he went out with another person to undertake an interview at someone’s house. They arrived around ten. A woman let them in, sat them down, gave them tea and biscuits. They had a very useful chat for around two hours, thanked her and then went back to the office.
My colleague, on returning to the office took a telephone call. Where have you been? I have been waiting for you since ten o’clock! They had got confused and gone to the wrong, paved side lane off a tarmaced road and thus the wrong house, but the right number!
Every time I read or hear about the less well off being vilified, I think of that woman. She let in two complete strangers, gave them tea and biscuits and spent a couple of hours with them. Priceless!
Do please remember that woman if you decide to watch Benefits Street and/or read another story about scroungers in the Daily Mail or The Sun. She is not unique. Many of the poorest people and organisations in our society are the most generous, relative to their means.