A couple of days ago someone posted this note on the East Dulwich Forum (a very popular local site which covers an area in south London):
sweep your own leaves, clean your own ice and snow: saving the council money balancing the budget
Posted by ataubin November 14, 04:48PM
At the Community Council Meeting on 10 November at St Faith's we were told Southwark has to cut 80 million from its budget. But where? What if we make East Dulwich a trial, a model for community (tiny) action that saves mega bucks? If every one sweeps the leaves and clears the ice and snow from the 8 metres in front of their property the council would save up to 10 million pounds. Yes, you read that correctly: 10 million if everyone did it. Seems a small action to me to save a lot of money. In an entire year it might take one hour? two?. No leaf blowers, no trucks. 10 million saved...
The sequence of responses encapsulates a number of the standard responses to big society, including for example -
The Perverse-Logic rejection:
'there would need to be a shed load of money spent to advertise this so people knew they had to'
(which seems to deny the power of the local online network itself to do this bit for nothing).
The Naive-Detection-of-Fatal-Flaw parry:
'Great idea and no problem doing it but my street has quite a lot of older people living on it. Would they be expected to clear up? If they don't then how will it work with half the street clear and the rest not?'
The I-Couldn't-Possibly-Where-Are-The-Servants? riposte (not for the novice, a difficult niche genre this one but supremely performed here):
'I don't mean to be unhelpful but I own neither broom nor shovel (dustpan and brush aside). Having traversed the mulchy leaves in frippantly high heels, I know this is a task that needs doing, but I'm afraid my tools are not fit for purpose.'
The We're-So-Rubbish-In-This-Country-Other-Places-Do-It-Better standard proclamation:
'In Germany and parts of the US and Canada you have to clear the path in front of your house of snow by law.'
The Informative-Intervention by a ward councillor:
'The Snow code highlights good practice to clear snow from pavements and paths such that you can avoid being successfully sued - which is a commonly given reason for people saying why they haven't cleared the pavement outside their home.'
The Calm-Sensible-Intervention by same:
'Their (sic) will never be enough council employees to clear all pavements outside homes - hundreds of kilometres of pavements.
But if residents clear the pavement outside their home the effects of the snow would be dramatically reduced. This really helps reduce peoples isolation.'
The Defence-Of-Jobs-Above-All-Else deflection:
'I presume more people would be made unemployed by this thus money would have to be spent supporting them and their families?'
The Completely-Miss-The-Point-Damnd-If-I-Will blurting-out (exquisitely executed in this example):
'Considering the amount of council tax we pay I personally wont be sweeping any leaves or clearing ice from the streets or taking part in any other activity that is supposedly covered by my paying of council tax.'
And the Thin-End-Of-The-Wedge kneejerk:
'How far do we go with this? Self-policing? That would save billions!'
Ooops, I nearly overlooked this -
'But if we all did our bit in sweeping leaves, clearing snow etc that can be regarded as a physical, non financial, contribution to the local area that avoids an increase in local taxes. As an added benefit we might get to know our neighbours, help out th elderly who were unable to sweep / clear and perhaps as an added bonus everyone would take a little more civic pride intheir immediate vicinity.'