I've really tried not to go off on one about politics, and my opinion on Councils, as it could only be seen as me being bitter and twisted as redundancy looms. Today's news out of Birmingham City Council has taken the biscuit. I've felt the urge several times to write a blog about the externalisation of costs - so that the consumer doesn't pay at the till, but in other ways. Think cheap goods in Primark. Made in Pakistan by some orphans for a bowl of rice a day, they are shipped over to the UK in containers and then onto the stores via huge warehouses. because of poverty in the Third World we have a huge Overseas Development budget to fund education in Pakistan for instance. Why not just pay a fair price for the goods? We put the goods in warehouses on roads that are badly rutted by lorries. We pay through the nose for our roads to be repaired. I read once that the damage one articulated lorry causes on a road is a thousand times what a car would do, but their running costs are not a thousand times more. We then pay for the goods in the shops to assistants only paid minimum wages. So we no longer have a textile industry, so skills gone there, although the job losses were a long time ago, there may be some on the dole, paid for by us. We make up the wages of minimum wage staff with tax credits, and yet we think we've got a bargain when we buy the £5 shirt at Primark. The company makes the profit, we pick up their stripped out costs. Genius.
We wouldn't expect our public services to go the same way would we? In the cause of efficiency and cost savings, Birmingham City Council has outsourced some call centre services to India. 160 jobs in Birmingham gone. Will there be a reduction in Council Tax - no. Will those Council Tax payers have to pick up the costs of their unemployment - yes. That's rate relief, rent relief, and dole, as well as potentially some re-training. You couldn't make it up. I suppose its robbing Peter to pay Paul, as Birmingham Councils's budget will reduce but Birmingham Job Centre budget will increase. So externalising of costs will end up probably costing the taxpayer more. I bet they still haven't factored in the loss of trade in local businesses. You know the sandwich shop, the newsagents and coffee shop will be noticably hit, but these people won't be buying new cars, tellys, clothes or whatever in Birmingham any time soon.
Food at a similar crisis point. We all want cheap food, but now farmers are stopping farming as a result, particularly in dairy. We want high welfare standards with low cost, so given a choice we buy the cheap overseas imports. meanwhile countries around the world such as China, are buying vast tranches of land in Africa to feed its population. A perfect storm is on the way. Food shortages will force the price up, governents will keep what they grow and rear for their own population, and Britain has let farming die. Higher prices, if at all available, are on the way. The Chinese Government and others know that a hungry population is an angry one and will retain food for their population to stop revolution. We will not have the farmers to bale us out this time, growing trees and biofuels provides profit not food.
We have accepted that businesses to make profit have stripped out so much of the internal costs to externalise them, so we pay anyway. The fact that the Councils are now doing similar, to move the costs onto other public sector departments is obscene. My grandmother used to call people who chased showy things as having a fur coat and no knickers. We all want cheap goods, cheap food, so we look good, and give the impression of an affluent lifestyle, but if all our jobs go abroad, in the private and public sector, we won't be able to even buy these cheap goods. The fur coat will blow open and the lack of underwear (infrastructure) will be revealed. You heard it here first.
Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3- Ian Dury and the Blockheads. Because today's news makes me want to get back in my bed. (I never had the pleasure of seeing him in concert, but saw the Blockheads with Phil Jupitus singing a couple of years ago and they were one of the tightest bands I've ever seen. Brilliant.)