Monday, March 08, 2010
A Modern Legend
An interesting story on seaside towns in The Independent newspaper today which places Margate in perspective, as it examines towns such as Hastings and Blackpool with similar challenges. I'll quote from it as it looks at both Conservative and Labour views of a familiar problem :
''However a government study in 2008 showed that 26 of England's 37 big seaside towns now suffer levels of deprivation that are worse than the national average.
These 26 seaside towns have more elderly populations, because of the large numbers who retire to the seaside. Many have higher than average levels of benefit claimants and do badly in health statistics. They have poor transport links and low levels of employment, in economies still reliant on tourism and which have struggled for years due to the decline of the traditional seaside holiday."
Where failing schools can find themselves under 'Special Measures' my own view is that a similar government policy should apply to towns that have moved beyond a tipping-point in social decline. Now in Britain today, that would represent a great many communities and is particularly over-represented north of the Watford Gap. There is a view among civil servants and local politicians, supported by the Treasury statistics that central government money moves north to deal with the so-called 'Labour heartland' and rarely delivers enough financial and policy punch to deal with endemic problems being experienced by the seaside towns. The Total Place scheme, which aims to achieve synergy between different agencies is a good start at tackling the most serious problems in a joined-up manner but with a public-sector deficit of over £170 billion, there's only so much that any government of any colour can deliver when so many communities are now feeling the pain of a boom and bust economy.
What's required, I believe, is a radical new approach to the bundle of connected problems facing our society but the tangled layers of bureaucracy, legislation, welfare and even Human Rights have created a 'Gordian knot' of such proportions that it would even defy the blade of Alexander the Great.
"Turn him to any cause of policy,
The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,
Familiar as his garter" (Shakespeare, Henry V)