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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Is THIS what they mean by the Big Society?

I got a parking ticket last week. Two actually. In my own road.
The resident's permit on my car - which has been parked there for seven years and is well known to the wardens - was overcome by gravity and decided to slip down the windscreen on to the dashboard.
So I was given a ticket. And then another the next morning as the warden was clearly waiting for the restricted time to begin. Luckily a neighbour noticed what was happening and I was able to restore the permit to its proper place before getting a third, fourt and fifth.
Assuming I won't have to pay the fine, all this means is that I have been terribly cross. But there is a wider significance.
Traffic wardens are the only people who walk our streets now. There used to be a road sweeper who knew us all and would keep an eye on the house and the children. He was sacked long ago as part of the council's efficiency drives that have kept Wandsworth council tax rises low. Can't remember when I last saw anyone cleaning our road since then.
The wardens could be performing a similarly useful social neighbourhood function but all they are interested in is slapping tickets on cars. They have no sense of society - they are just in it for the money.
Just about all the places where people could meet or get help in the community have gone. The garden centre, the police station, the post office. The residents play their part in fostering a sense of community but the council and government are working against us.
The criticism of the Big Society - that it will be undermined by the spending cuts - doesn't go far enough.  Since the days of Thatcher - the woman who insisted there was no such thing as society - all that has mattered to the authorities is cash. And New Labour was no better than the Tories.
Don't tell us we must be part of a Big Society when you are doing all you can to cut the feet out from under it. It's not just a matter of seeing if your elderly neighbour is OK. The Big Society can only exist as part of thriving communities. And successive governments have destroyed them, not only in industrial heartlands but in leafy suburbs and rural areas, too.

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