Hello PPMA members and friends
Anne is away taking a well-earned holiday and I therefore have the opportunity to do some blogging.
Much has happened since the last blog published on this site and it would be wrong not to pass comment on the riots that have taken place in a number of cities in England, including in my own London Borough, Barking and Dagenham.
Two weekends ago I was in Lincolnshire, quite far removed from the tragic events unfolding in London and elsewhere. The local Lincolnshire MP’s helpful contribution to the debate was to suggest that rioters should be rounded up and locked up in Wembley Stadium. This would suggest a lack of understanding of the difficulties of managing a public disorder situation and perhaps of the issues underpinning the events that took place, which have implications for Lincolnshire as much as Barking.
Whilst there is little doubt that what took place was opportunistic, drive by greed and perhaps the thrill of rebellion, the ease with which significant numbers of people joined in with the rioting and looting does suggest a deep-rooted disaffection and a sense of having no stake in the communities which they were destroying among a group of mainly young people. The speed with which large numbers responded by getting their brooms out and clearing up, suggests that there is much that remains good within those same communities.
I see that both David Cameron and Tony Blair are commenting in the Sunday Papers on the causes of the riots and focus on disaffection among young people, rather than a general moral malaise. They do have a different take on the action required and Mr Cameron of course has to carefully manage the message around spending cuts in the context of what has taken place. Horncastle in Lincolnshire, my weekend retreat, is a long way from those areas affected by rioting, but the problems of unemployment and the lack of opportunity or young people are plain to see and whilst the anti-social behaviour that takes place is low-key, it is symptomatic of the same social issues as in Barking.
The PPMA should acknowledge the bravery of the police officers, fire crews and ambulance staff who were at the heart of the immediate response to the emergency. Many other public sector workers have been working subsequently with communities to repair both the physical damage and to rebuild confidence in the future.
The public of course acknowledges the contribution of the police, fire and ambulance services whose efforts to protect life and property played out in front of the 24 hour news cameras. Less attention is paid to the other public sector staff, the street cleansers, community safety staff and youth workers, for example, who worked tirelessly to start to put things together again. Indeed, it is their contribution, as well as many other staff from local authorities and the probation service that will be most telling in addressing the causes of the rioting and whether this is indeed a turning point.
Public sector workers are motivated to deliver by a strong sense of commitment to the communities they serve. That commitment should not be taken for granted. In addressing the huge challenge of balancing the public purse, politicians and the public should reflect on the part played by public sector workers and the part they need to play going forward and take decisions that will enable us to continue to attract and motivate talented people.