Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Libraries or dead children?

As the Indie reports this morning, public anger is growing at the 'bloodbath' facing public libraries, with some 375 having been identified to date for closure by councils making savings. However, this is an entirely rational and self-interested move by council bosses; no-one will put them in the dock, or summarily dismiss them, for depriving their populations of access to books. If they have a child die on their watch, they face personal disgrace, even imprisonment. In fact, they will first cut not just libraries but every single traditional non-statutory function of local authorities before they reduce by one pound the budgets for children and child protection.

Sharon Shoesmith's fate sent shockwaves of fear through council bosses after the death of Baby Peter. Council social services structures have since been padded with layer upon layer of sacrificial managers all designed to protect the Chief Officers at the top from the consequences of having a child death on their patch. There is no more profligate spender of tax funds than a council boss building a wall of deniability around themself. The welfare of 'at risk' children, of course, has not improved by a single jot or tittle - as Booker has been reporting, if anything the State has responded by seizing more and more of them, sometimes for perfectly trivial reasons.  

Take a look at this year's budget breakdown for England's councils (spreadsheet). In addition to some £48bn for education, they are spending around £7bn overall on children's 'social protection'. This exceeds the  national bill for libraries (£1bn), parks (£1bn), refuse collection and disposal (£2.8bn), street lighting (£0.5bn), road maintenance (£1.1bn) and trading standards, food safety and environmental health (£0.4bn) together. 

It would be a brave politician who suggested that we're paying too much for child protection, but of course we are. It's a consequence of a Rousseau-esque State that's worked hard for decades to destroy the horizontal ties of family and community and replace them with a direct vertical link between every individual and the State. And this is the cost - and it isn't cheap. 


CityUnslicker said...

brilliant post and all too true.

Span Ows said...

yes, great post. linked to it.

Anonymous said...

The people who use libraries are voters - often elderly - and their numbers are increasing. Children have no venom or gratitude but OAPs do.

Raedwald said...

Anon - true, but the people spending the money are unelected officers, who know that elected members who see votes disappearing and will oppose such expenditure are rarer than hen's teeth.