Here’s a torrid story told by Adam Langleben of how one council – the infamous Barnet council in north London – chose to behave corporately in the face of a few residents seeking to defend their local library against a devious closure tactic. The officials’ sense of exclusive ownership over the property, including toilets, water and electricity supplies, shows a remarkably weak grasp of the notion of a public building.
Further, the council’s poor handling of the entire process is shown up, surprise surprise, by the use of social media. As Adam writes:
‘you cannot simply push around residents, lie to residents and expect them to simpl[y] take this.’
Part of the problem seems to be that Barnet council have signed up to some religious mumbo-jumbo which claims that the private sector runs things more efficiently than the public sector, de facto. Even if this were true – and there’s enough evidence (e.g.) to have discredited it long ago, if everyday experience were not sufficient – there’s a small question of the meaning and value of a public realm.
What matters now is for some of us to start thinking about how we restore services as public services - not products that people who can afford them, buy, or that are subject to the big society model of a miserable suspended animation, kept breathing artificially and fitfully through inadequate and unpredictable resources and expertise.