It's been a long time since I had a chance to take a good look at Brussels, since I first came to the city twenty years ago and believe me it's changed. It's a traffic gridlocked North African city, which in fact could be any other modern European city, like Lyon, same faces, same marked changes in a generation with the 'veil' evident everywhere one looks along the ring road suburbs into from the Eurostar terminal to the centre of town.
Changing the subject completely, I had a council meeting early this morning and walked past the Job centre, which now has a sign displayed, informing potential job seekers that they need to wear shirts when visiting the building. Now if you need to be told this, then the chances of your finding any work would strike me as being rather remote but Thanet, now has third generation families who have never worked and with a growing army of teenage mums, the fourth generation is just around the corner.
How I wonder, in addition to generous tax credits, education for all and government support, do we reverse a situation where a significant proportion of our society will never find work or even aspire to work, however hard society tries to help. We are discovering, as the the Americans have done before us that a welfare state only stimulates a growing welfare society, regardless of good intentions. What's the solution if there is one in an area like our own where the balance is disproportionate in contrast to other disadvantaged areas of the country? After all, if we are to see local economic regeneration working, we need to see a growing and indeed thriving, local economy offering skilled labour and that, in real terms, means cutting unemployment by at least 50% simply to bring us back on a par with other areas of the South-east.
But businesses increasingly want skilled workers and if you look at London, then the unskilled sector is being rapidly filled by Eastern European labour. So what's left if you don't happen to be a rocket scientist or a research chemist. Nobody appears to have an answer in central government other than to deliver platitudes on creating a world-class workforce, which for many of the most succesful large companies, exists in Mumbai and Shanghai rather than closer to home in Britain.
What's your view?