Dear David [PM],
I hope I can call you David? You may remember me, we met once whilst you were leader of the opposition party some 5 or 6 years ago. At that time you were visiting Balsall Heath Forum and St. Paul’s Community Development Trust , the latter being where I worked as the head of the youth and training department [yep I started as a volunteer and I still volunteer]. I let you use my office to respond to the then PM’s speech before we had a round table discussion about the challenges and issues affecting community organisations working with some of the most disadvantaged people in the UK.
I think it’s fair to say, that you were touched, indeed impressed, with the hard work staff and volunteers put into the area to make it a vibrant community. Indeed it is an area often mentioned within Big Society spin [as its been doing Big Society for years]. I’m proud to have been a part of that development for over 15 years, building up a strong youth programme which changed many lives over the years for the better.
So what’s the problem? I visited recently to meet up with some of the youth workers there who are all being made redundant to help them look at how they could continue the work they are doing. The problem of course is that this is the front line, where services were not going to be affected. Let me tell you the distant light in the tunnel has turned out to be a freight train travelling at a speed likened to the new rail link between Birmingham and the Big Smoke [London].
So what am I saying? We all know cuts are necessary [we can debate 'until the cows come home' as to whose fault it actually is], but I’ll resist this. But we do really need to get a grip on what is a sensible cut and what is a short-term saving with a longer term [most likely higher] cost to both society and the public purse.
The cuts have affected Birmingham’s youth services and the many voluntary sector youth services to the point where there will be nothing left but the Scouts [ps the Scouts in the local area doesn't exist and hasn't for some time].
So let’s just take a simple example like St. paul’s Youth Service which works with over 100 young people a week with positive, stimulating activities that change lives. Let’s imagine [oh hang on we don't have to imagine it it's a reality] the service stopped existing. 100 young people [young people who have little life chances in the first place] suddenly have nothing stimulating and positive to do, outside of school [ps many don't attend school either]. Maybe 10% of these young people get so fed up that they do something illegal and get arrested. Low and behold the cost to the public purse has now increased significantly from what it would have costs to keep these services going. And more worrying is we’ve now disengaged the young person even further…
Dear David, the front line is being breached, perhaps you should come and visit again? Perhaps you could say to the Boss of Barclays [Bob Diamond] ‘actually that £3m out of the £9m you didn’t pay yourself, why not use it to do some good for our young people, you’ll get another tax break!’ Or perhaps you could consider where short-term cost cuts will not create a longer term expense to society and the public purse. Perhaps you could sign the young people’s’ petition here! and support them in their wish to gain ‘local control of services’ and ‘decision making powers’?
David, please feel free to get in touch, if you don’t remember me you should remember my name, I’m Dave by the way!