The BBC, ever the champion of all that is great and good in this land as our mighty public service bastion of entertainment and information leads today with a call to ban soup kitchens in our nations capital.
In a nutshell Westminster City Council, fronted by the cabinet member for housing, Angela Harvey, have been complaining that people are leaving their hostels to sleep rough on the streets to acquire food and drink from the numerous charitable soup kitchens set up at Christmas to see that people in real poverty (not relative poverty mind - the statist and communists own brand of wibble that I believe undermines dealing with true poverty in a progressive way) get some hot food over the Christmas period. She had this to say for a soundbite:
"The majority will not be rough sleepers... you see them going off with large carrier bags stuffed full of food which is for them and their house mates. We know they are in work and housed."
I feel duty bound (and being my own blog I can do what I want) to ask the following questions:-
1. Why if the "majority will not be rough sleepers" and "we know they are in work and housed" in one of the richest cities on this rock do they feel the need to get their hands on a few tins of beans collected at a high school and a cup of tea made with powdered milk?
2. Why is Westminster City Council, the supposed seat of power in the UK, the seat of parliament and champion of such acts as banning legitimate protests outside parliament (in one very hilarious case hopefully to it's own detriment) the only district so far to suggest such a ban, with many other district councils being against the plan?
3. Why is it that when our government will spend £140Bn (approximately 8% of the estimated GDP in 2006) on welfare in 2007/08 (having increased slightly from the previous year) do we still have any form of poverty at all? Look at this fag packet calculation:
Number of recipients on unemployment/disability welfare: ~5million
Number of homeless: ~130000
Money available to those in poverty: £140000million/5.13million people = £27290 per person
Now I'm sure there is plenty wrong with this calculation but where exactly is this money going? And if I am wrong about the number of unemployed/disabled/homeless then why does the government espouse such figures daily about the good their doing when they've got so much money per head to play with?
The truth is Westminster as an entity represents all that is wrong with Britain as it stands; the true face of poverty - the one where people are living a hand to mouth existence thought to have been abolished in the earlier part of the last century - is banned from appearing on the clean streets surrounding parliament; it doesn't sit too well with the Utopian vision our politicos have for the future if its customers are lining up for food from church groups and charities to keep from starving or freezing to death on the corridors of power. It would rather they go to those places they have identified as impoverished and are throwing money at to go away.
I cannot even begin to posit an answer to the poverty question but I can say one thing -
the focus of our politicos on concepts like relative poverty doesn't help and evades dealing with entrenched poverty. The money we throw at the problem in terms of taxes we think absolves us of this guilt of taking any necessary action on the matter. We no longer question ourselves or our leaders about their actions unless they appear in heat magazine.
A while back though it became clear to me there was one way of getting answers out of our politicos in which their weasel words would be clear to all and in a public sphere which could be easily accessed and reviewed: epetitions.
This useful little electronic system on the downing street website allows the creation of petitions for any myriad of reasons (though they can bar them, but this in has important implications which I will mention in a moment) to which people can sign online and then have it presented to the prime minister at an allotted date. One such petition that has appeared on this is for the abolition of funding to charities and NGO's.
What, you say???!!!! abolish funding the very charities that help the poor???!!!! Have you gone stark raving mad with miserly power? Probably considering how much Christmas this year has cost me but it is more likely because of the cynical conspiracy nut within me noticing a worrying trend to how these "charitable organisations" actually function.
Have a look at the petition and then think about the following:
As a proportion of their household income, our Victorian counterparts gave approximately 10% of their household income to charity, compared with 1% of our own. Why?
How many times have we questioned exactly how modern charities are spending our money?
Why does the government feel it has a better idea than us as to what charities and causes we should support?
Why when public spending gets approximately 33p's worth of work from £1's worth of taxation do we continue to pay for charitable works via this means? Just who is benefitting from this kind of charity? Wouldn't it be better placed in our own hands to spend on charities as we see fit?
Please read the petition and if you agree with it sign it; I doubt very much it will cause a change outright but it does mean one thing - the government has to provide an answer as to why it supports undemocratic bodies with tax payer money and why it feels we ourselves should control the spending of this money. The answer to this is due in March 08. I'll let you know the outcome and comment then.