Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Blears and perverse public policy
The Department for Communities and Local Government fund a body known as CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. CABE is a worthy body that produces much advice for architects and designers geared at improving the quality of our public spaces. CABE has long campaigned for a less municipally constipated approach to the way in which people use public space; it produced a number of mildly witty photoshop images including those above intended to challenge the prevailing attitudes. It pointed out that the government's targets in relation to exercise and preventing obesity could be helped if people were encouraged, rather than discouraged, from using public space for informal sport and games. Councils, it said, should not be so risk averse. It claimed all sorts of other benefits - community cohesion, social capital - would flow from such liberalisation.
This, of course, is in direct contradiction to advice issued to councils by the, er, Department of Communities and Local Government. Littlejohn reveals in today's Mail a 53 page memorandum sent to councils instructing them to carry out risk assessments before allowing ball games on municipal property. Littlejohn quotes the guidance stating: 'If not planned properly, football can be divisive and trigger conflict. Passions can get high and physical contact can easily lead to confrontations.'
In reality, we all know that councils will go straight from the guidance to erecting 'No Ball Games' signs on every scrap of municipal turf without the intermediate risk assessments.
What is it about Labour's control-freak central State that it can't bear even a handful of kids putting their schoolbags down as goalposts in the park without intervening? Blears might as well cut all CABE's funding straight away and wind them up. They're clearly out of tune with her real message.