Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Nick and Cut

Coming soon on the free-to-air BBC:

The BBC’s Nick Robinson reveals what happened when the residents of an ordinary street in Lancashire had to run everything for themselves .

Ponder instead how you’d do if you had to run not the whole country but just your own street.

What if you didn’t have a budget but each house had to decide how much to spend on what?

Like a budget, then.

What if you had to organise and pay for the everyday things we take for granted: the bin collection, the recycling, the street lights

Errm, we already pay for them.  This is sounding like it was written by someone who works where other people pay for everything.

If so, come and join me on The Street That Cut Everything – that’s the title of a programme to be shown on BBC1 next week.

The residents weren’t paid for taking part, but they were given back their council tax money for those six weeks to spend – not on themselves but on the needs of their community.

OK, but council tax only accounts for typically a quarter to a third of councils’ income. Why not given them back three times that much to make it more realistic?

You might think that life wouldn’t change that much if the council closed down…

Shift workers woke early to find their street in total darkness…

Not quite “without government the sun wouldn’t rise”, but close.

Children emerged earlier than usual. They could no longer get the bus to school

Because bus services can only be run by councils, you know.

Those who fancied a trip to the local leisure centre to get away from the rubbish and the endless meetings and the cameras found their way barred: it’s run by the council.

… and so on.

I know that some will assert that the programme’s title shows that the BBC has an anti-cuts agenda.

Not just the title, Nick, but anyway … admittedly it would be difficult to believe that the state funded BBC could produce such a programme without having, if not an anti-cuts agenda, then certainly a pro-statist one. Thus so it would seem, with it peddling the idea that such services as leisure centres could not exist without the council to run them. It is part of the wider mindset that if the state doesn’t do it, then no-one will do it. They used to think that about telephone networks once.

Naturally the experiment, from the sound of it, will bear little resemblance to what a properly organised scaling-back of government services, replaced by community-organised efforts stretching beyond a cul-de-sac could achieve (given enough of a lead time). Nor do most, even of the classical liberal tendency, seriously suggest that there should be no government, as the “you libertarians ought to try living in Somalia” commentators from the collectivist Left might like to suggest.

However, whatever the institutional bias at play, it should be an interesting examination of ordinary council taxpayers people’s ideas about (local) government and the work of politicians, council officers and staff. I will reserve my final judgement (for what it is worth!), until then.

Of course, if it’s successful they could always make a sequel; how about a street that did without the BBC …

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